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Wearable air pollution monitors idea needs funding – Prof Amegah

Students of Ghanata Senior High School are proposing to build wearable monitors that will alert people sensitive to air pollution, including asthmatics and individuals with cardiovascular diseases of polluted environments.

The idea was judged the best at the maiden Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Ideathon challenge on Air Pollution for Senior High Schools in the country.

Professor Kofi Amegah, an Associate Professor of Environmental and Nutritional Epidemiology at the University of Cape Coast, told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that the idea was innovative, timely, thoughtful and required funding.

It was organised by the Ghana Urban Air Quality Project (GHAir) in partnership with the Globe Ghana Program under the Clean Air Africa Network Project funded by the US Department of State.

A recent study has revealed lack of adequate and multiple year funding from local, national, or global sources for local actors air quality monitoring as a challenge.

This translates to local actors being
unable to build air quality monitoring programmes specifically designed to move policy in their countries, and they cannot adequately access funds to sustainably operate air quality monitoring or engage their communities on the issue.

The Epidemiologist stated that the GHAir, which began in May 2019, anchored the Breathe Accra Project and continued to deploy sensors in metropolitan areas of Ghana to bridge the air quality data gaps in those settlements for public health protection.

Prof Amegah who leads the Breath Accra project said Bole SHS placed second with their innovative proposal to convert waste papers into ethanol, aiming to tackle waste disposal challenges within their school.

Their submission was that the prevalent practice of burning or dumping students’ waste papers contributed to air pollution by releasing harmful gases into the atmosphere, he said.

Students of Twene Amanfo SHS, he noted, were judged the third best with their concept of equipping billboards embedded with electrostatic precipi
tators to fight air pollution.

They said the strategic placement of such billboards along roadsides, where vulnerable populations, particularly women and children, were often exposed to high levels of air pollution, would address the situation.

Prof Amegah said the competition was designed to inspire students to devise innovative solutions using low-cost sensor data to address air pollution within their communities. 

Kpasenkpe Stem SHS, proposed to develop a solar-powered air purification system designed to enhance air quality in both rural and urban communities.

The team from Ghana National College offered to develop wearable and portable sensors using waste materials assembled from e-waste.

Prof. Amegah said the proposals demonstrated the commitment of all the schools towards addressing air quality issues and improving environmental health in their communities.

In collaboration with GLOBE Ghana, the Ghana Urban Air Quality Project received 17 applications from senior high schools eager to partake in t
his challenge

Ms. Emily Fertik, Head of Public Diplomacy at the US Embassy in Ghana, emphasised the U.S commitment to supporting air quality work in Africa. 

She highlighted the importance of engaging young people through STEM, and explained why the U.S Embassy was dedicated to the cause.

Mr. Desmond Appiah, the Country Lead of Clean Air Fund, expressed delight at the interest the young people had cultivated to actively engage in the fight for clean air. 

He urged them to continue developing innovative solutions that would contribute to achieving the goal of clean air for all. 

Mr Appiah said such initiatives would address the absence of local or sometimes regional technical expertise to compare experiences, troubleshoot and provide mentorship, which often hampered sustainable air quality monitoring.

Already, the country has an Air Sensor Evaluation and Training Facility at the Department of Physics, University of Ghana, seeking to support the development that will ignite innovation and motivate individ
uals and industry players to also build low-cost sensors to collect air quality data from communities.

The Project is led by the Makerere University AirQo Project and University of Lagos.

The GHAir Project has been deploying air quality monitors in urban areas of Ghana to bridge the air quality data gaps anchored by the Clean Air Funds, with funding from Breathe Accra Project

Source: Ghana News Agency