An estimated 14 000 premature births in the country were the result of fossil-fuel air pollution, warned the latest Greenpeace report. Picture: Jennifer Coate/AP
An estimated 14 000 premature births in the country were the result of fossil-fuel air pollution, warned the latest Greenpeace report. Picture: Jennifer Coate/AP

14 000 premature births in SA are the result of air pollution - Greenpeace

By Sukaina Ishmail Time of article published Feb 19, 2020

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Cape Town - Burning fossil fuels has a staggering impact on the health of South Africans, warned the latest Greenpeace report, which showed that an estimated 14000 premature births in the country were the result of fossil-fuel air pollution.

According to research conducted by Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, it was also found that about 13000 premature deaths were attributed to fossil fuel-related air pollution in South Africa in 2018.

The cost of air pollution from fossil fuels in South Africa was estimated to be a mammoth R94.7billion annually, the report said.

Greenpeace Africa climate and energy campaigner, Bukelwa Nzimande, said: “There is no longer room to dispute the devastating cost of burning fossil fuels, not just for our rapidly heating planet but also for our health.

“Air pollution from fossil fuels is a toxic death pill, as millions of lives across the world are lost prematurely every year and our risk of stroke, lung cancer and asthma increases due to air pollution.”

About 62000 asthma-related emergencies in South African hospitals could be attributed to air pollution and ozone exposure, according to the research findings.

Nzimande said although the research might have attributed the estimated 4.5 million deaths a year due to air pollution from fossil fuels, the value of the lives lost as a result could never be quantified.

But he said the problem could be solved by shifting away from coal-fired power stations towards renewable energy in a fair transition.

Extinction Rebellion spokesperson, Jade Vester, said: “The future generation is already feeling the effects of fossil fuel pollution.

“The number of cases of children with bronchitis and asthma is in the thousands in areas where coal mining is prevalent.

“Not only lung disease, but the pollutants are causing coronary heart disease as well,” she said.

Vester said the current generation of children would grow up with much higher risks of developing these health conditions, as they were the ones who would particularly suffer the consequences in the future.

“People in communities who are strongly impacted by air pollution often don’t have control over the situation, and they are forced to live with the toxic by-products of the fossil fuel industry,” she said.

Vester said the government should start divesting from fossil fuels immediately, by revoking licences and shutting down mines.

Communities surrounded by mines should be prioritised by purifying their water and restoring some of the damage done to their environment.

On Sunday, Greenpeace Africa activists wearing superhero costumes tried to gain access to the SuperSport Park cricket field during the international T20 match between England and South Africa, in an attempt to present an air-pollution mask to Proteas captain Quinton de Kock and his team.

They were hoping to raise more awareness about air pollution, as the players and supporters on the field were breathing in polluted air that would likely impact their health.

A pitch invader runs past England players during the final T20 cricket match between South Africa and England at Centurion Park in Pretoria, South Africa, Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020. Picture:  Themba Hadebe/ AP
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