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Car pollution the cause of increased cases of respiratory diseases

Kenya is yet to begin inspecting cars to ensure that exhaust emissions are not injurious to public health despite regulations being enacted in 2014.

The newly released 2017 Economic Survey reveals that last year, 19.9 million cases of respiratory diseases were reported in health facilities, a 63 per cent increase from the 12.2 million cases in 2012.

Vehicle exhaust emissions contain dangerous pollutants including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide and particulate matter.

Particulate matter from diesel has been proven to cause cancer, and the World Health Organisation estimates that it causes a quarter of all lung cancer deaths worldwide.  The emissions also trigger asthma attacks.

Transport sector emissions are expected to increase about three times from 2010 to 2030, reports the National Climate Change Action Plan that was launched in 2013.

A Nation Newsplex review of air pollution data shows that emissions from vehicles also increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, accelerating global warming and climate change. In 2014, the transport sector accounted for more than half of all the carbon dioxide emissions Kenya produced, according to the World Bank.

A 2008 study on carbon dioxide by Mark Jacobson of Stanford University found that increased carbon dioxide resulted in more deaths from pollution.


The problem of diseases caused by pollution will only get more urgent as more vehicles are imported and assembled in the country.

In 2012, Kenya had a total of about two million cars, and that number could rise to five million in 2030 and eight million by 2050 according to a report by the Energy Regulatory Commission. Last year, 213,217 new registrations of motor vehicles were reported, a 23 per cent increase from 173,044 in 2012, according to the 2016 Economic Survey.

Newsplex obtained a draft copy of the Kenya standard for vehicle emissions testing, KS-1515, which is currently undergoing review.

According to the Kenya Bureau of Standards, it is implemented by companies contracted by Kebs to provide inspection services outside the country before cars are shipped into Kenya. However, no inspection currently happens within the country.

The standard expresses limits on carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons in parts per million, in contrast with more recent standards which use grams per kilometre. In addition, it does not contemplate emissions limits for cars which were first used after 1995, which places it far behind most standards currently in use.

Kenya is yet to begin mandatory emissions testing, although clean air regulations have been in place for more than two years.

According to Section 27 (2) of the Environmental Management and Coordination (Air Quality) Regulations 2014, all commercial and public service vehicles should undergo emissions testing annually, while all private vehicles older than five years should undergo emissions testing once every two years.

According to Mr M. W. Mwai, who heads the Clean Air Department at the National Environmental Management Authority (Nema), capacity to do the testing does not currently exist.


“We are in the process of coming up with a strategy to realise that,” he told Newsplex.

A Nema spokesperson also told Newsplex that emission measurements are currently carried out at the Vehicle Inspection Unit on Likoni Road, though not for licensing purposes and an exhaust analytical system n eeds to be established before inspection for licensing can be rolled out.

Mr Gerphas Opondo, the executive director of the Nairobi-based Environmental Compliance Institute worked with the Rwandan government to develop its emissions standards. He says Kebs needs to accelerate the review of the Kenyan standard so that the National Transport and Safety Authority can carry out the inspections. “That way we are able to save the health of our citizens, especially in urban areas.”

Africa is far behind the world when it comes to vehicle emissions testing. According to the Unep Partnership of Clean Fuels and Vehicles, only Algeria, Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt and Rwanda test for emissions in Africa, largely using European standards.

South Africa uses the Euro 2 emissions standard, Nigeria and Algeria use Euro 3, while Rwanda, which began vehicle inspection in January 2015, uses Euro 4. Europe itself uses Euro 6, having discontinued the previous standards in 2000, 2005 and 2009, respectively.

“The regulation came way back in 2014, and three years later we are still unable to implement because we don’t have the standard,” he said.

Kenya ratified the Paris Agreement on December 28, 2016, and the agreement came into force locally on January 27. Under the agreement, Kenya committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30 per cent by 2030.