Five African nations have announced a ban on the importation of dirty fuels from European manufacturers. According to the BBC, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Cote d’Ivoire have agreed on the import ban of fossil fuels with a high level of sulfur content. This comes after a recent report revealed that European companies have been exploiting the weak regulatory policies in the West African region to export fuels with high levels of sulfur.
The World Health Organization considers sulfur particles emitted by diesel engines as one of the major contributors to air pollution. Studies have shown sulfur to be responsible for a number of health conditions, including heart disease, lung cancer, and respiratory illnesses such, as asthma or bronchitis.
A statement released by the UN Environment Program (UNEP) welcomed the move saying it will help more than 250 million people in the affected countries breath safer and cleaner air. The organization also welcomed the decision by the five countries to upgrade the operations of their national refineries.
Reacting to the ban, the head of UNEP, Erik Solheim, said, “West Africa is sending a strong message that it is no longer accepting dirty fuels from Europe.
“Their decision to set strict new standards for cleaner, safer fuels and advanced vehicle emission standards shows they are placing the health of their people first.”
In September, a BBC report criticized five Swiss firms for their involvement in the exportation and sale of “dirty” fuels in Africa, even though their sulfur levels were considered too toxic for European markets.
Nigeria’s Environment Minister Amina Mohamed hailed the decision to ban the fuel, saying the move has the potential to greatly improve the air quality in the countries affected.
“For 20 years, Nigeria has not been able to address the vehicle pollution crisis due to the poor fuels we have been importing. Today, we are taking a huge leap forward [by] limiting sulfur in fuels from 3,000 parts per million to 50 parts per million.”