Water and Environmental Affairs Minster Edna Molewa on Friday established a national ambient air quality standard, aimed at improving public health.
The 2005 World Health Organisation (WHO) Air Quality Guidelines found that airborne particulate matter and public health is consistent in showing adverse health effects at exposures experienced by urban populations in cities throughout the world.
“The guidelines suggest that there are currently no safe levels against ultrafine particulate matter and recommend that countries consider adoption of an increasingly stringent set of standards, tracking progress through emission reductions and declining concentrations of particulate matter,” the department said in a statement.
The range of health effects of ultrafine particulate matter on humans is broad, affecting the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Current scientific evidence indicates that guidelines cannot be proposed that would lead to complete protection against adverse health effects of particulate matter, as thresholds have not been identified.
“It is important that South Africa develops the ambient air quality standard for 2.5 micron meter (PM2.5) as it will contribute positively in protecting and enhancing the health of South African citizens,” the department said.
Published under the National Environmental: Air Quality Act, 2004, the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter less than PM2.5, the department has considered these guidelines and other related studies as scientific basis for inclusion of this pollutant in the list of pollutants under the Air Quality Act, and has also taken into account South African conditions such as estimated natural background levels, prevailing ambient air concentrations, as well as current trends in air -uality management planning across the country.
Particulate air pollutants comprise material in solid or liquid phase suspended in the atmosphere. Such particles can be either primary and naturally occurring or secondary and related to human activities. It can also cover a wide range of sizes. Naturally occurring particulate matter originates from dust storms, forest fires and sea spray. Human activities, such as the combustion of fossil fuels, motor vehicles tailpipes and various industrial and non-industrial processes generate significant amounts of particulate matter.