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New Study Fills Some of the Data Gaps in Africa’s Air Pollution Studies

Rapidly growing countries generally see sharp increases in air pollution as their populations and economies expand. But a new study of air quality in Africa published on Monday has found the opposite: One of the continent’s most vibrant regions is becoming less polluted. The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that levels of dangerous nitrogen oxides, a byproduct of combustion, in the northern part of sub-Saharan Africa have declined sharply as wealth and population in the area have increased. The reason, according to researchers, is that an increase in pollution from industry and transportation in the area studied — from Senegal and Ivory Coast in the west to South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya in the east — appears to have been offset by a decline in the number of fires set by farmers. Emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are projected to rise considerably in Africa. Despite a 2015 African Union commitment to green energy, 80 percent of the power generated on the continent is from coal or other fossil fuels. More and more used cars are being imported, which drives up emissions from transportation.