Air Pollution in Lagos – How Waste Disposal is Contributing

Human activities release air emissions, making air pollution a growing global concern. Air pollution in cities like Lagos steadily increases due to human activity and inadequate environmental regulations. In contrast, clean air is vital for plants, animals, people, and materials.

Air pollution in Lagos is particularly relevant because of the country’s dense population, increased waste generation, improper waste disposal, and high industrial and commercial activity levels.

Humans require an average of 12 kg of clean air daily, although their food intake is 12–15 times lower. However, human activity-induced disruption or contamination of ambient air components may result in significant harm or jeopardise the survival of all species on Earth.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said in Geneva on March 25, 2014, that air pollution is now the world’s most significant single environmental health risk, with 7 million annual deaths.

The following are common air pollutants found in the atmosphere: carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOx), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

The level of air pollution varies regionally and from city to city. Air pollution is one of the many environmental issues Lagos faces. It is the most populated metropolis in Africa and one of the continent’s financial centres.

When air pollution in Lagos is assessed as particulate matter with a diameter less than 2.5 µm or PM2.5, it is 6 to 10 times higher than the maximum level the World Health Organization advised. PM2.5 is the size of pollutants that can pass through lung barriers and into the bloodstream.

According to estimates from the World Bank study, exposure to PM2.5 pollution in Lagos results in up to 350,000 lower acute respiratory infections and 30,000 early deaths, half of which are in infants under the age of one.

The high concentration of lead-based aerosols in the industrialised LGA of Ikorodu has been associated with a 6.2-point decline in youngsters’ intelligence quotient (IQ).

The human capital method, which calculates the amount of income lost due to health or education gaps, estimates the economic costs of these impacts to be between US$0.5 and US$2.6 billion annually.

Alternatively, the value of a statistical life approach, which calculates the amount of money society is willing to pay to reduce a small risk of death, estimates the costs to be between US$2.6 and 5.2 billion, or 3.6 to 7.2% of Lagos’ GDP.

Due to the landfill’s proximity to the road, if you are travelling along the Lagos-Ibadan motorway, you will unavoidably encounter the foul stench of the Olusosun landfill.

Days may pass while the smoke from this landfill burns, sending toxic materials into the sky. The emissions frequently result in excruciating traffic jams near the Ojota section of the Lagos-Ibadan motorway. If you have not witnessed the Olusosun landfill, you definitely must have encountered similar situations as you travel around the country due to illegal waste disposal on drainage ways and open dump sites in different parts of the country.

Living in Lagos unquestionably necessitates wearing nose protection at all times, mainly if you are sensitive to even minor changes in the air quality, as it is typically poor.

Municipal solid waste (MSW) is typically burned in Lagos rather than dumped in landfills. Although burning solid trash is beneficial for treating large volumes of waste, it also releases chemicals that are harmful to the environment.

The amount of waste produced is increasing, which is one of the main issues in populated cities like Lagos. The inadequate and ineffective handling of municipal garbage, which the government seems incapable of, is also a cause for concern.

Sawdust is another type of solid waste produced in Lagos. It is burned in the open without consideration for responsible environmental management. The Lagos coastline is dotted with sawmills of all sizes. As a result, one of the biggest environmental issues the city is currently dealing with is how to appropriately dispose of the debris that sawmill operators’ everyday operations generate.

These wastes are burned outdoors alongside the Lagos Lagoon bank when appropriate disposal techniques are unavailable. The amount of trash produced by Lagos’ sawmill businesses is predicted to rise along with the demand for wood and its products, leading to increased emissions when the wastes burn.

There have been studies on the impact of emissions from combustion processes on the environment and human health. It is estimated that the majority of the world’s air pollution problems are caused by the combustion of fossil fuels in industrialised countries and biomass burning in developing countries, which releases around 85% of the world’s airborne respirable particulate matter, SO2, and NOX into the atmosphere (International Energy Agency [IEA]).

Even though there are other sources of air pollution in Lagos, waste disposal stands out due to its noticeable influence on the city’s people and its history of causing various negative impacts, including traffic jams and health problems.

The final step in any waste management system is disposing of solid waste into landfills. However, to reduce threats to the environment and public health, waste landfills must be appropriately set up and maintained. Regretfully, Lagos’s metropolitan dumps lack oversight and don’t follow global guidelines for comparable operations. Because of this noncompliance, there are more insects and rodents, which leads to the blowing of litter, which degrades the environment overall and produces an unpleasant stench.

Additionally, the city’s inadequate waste management infrastructure encourages illicit disposal and open burning, which raises the PM2.5 concentration to 9%.

Over 30% of the estimated 14,000 tonnes of waste collected daily in Lagos State is dumped at illegal sites, and an estimated amount is burned even before collection. The city’s waste management is failing, and air pollution is just one of the effects that will only get worse. Lagos’s population is growing by 77 people every hour.

Impacts of Air Pollution in Lagos

Some of the effects of air pollution in Lagos due to poor waste management include;

  • Respiratory Issues
  • Spread of Infectious Diseases
  • Allergies and Skin Irritations
  • Reproductive, Mental, and Other Health Problems
  • Environmental Consequences
  • Economic Costs

1. Respiratory Issues

Citizens may experience respiratory problems such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and bronchitis (inflamed lungs) as a result of breathing in contaminated air that contains chemicals and sulphur dioxide. Extended exposure diminishes lung capacity and raises the risk of contracting respiratory illnesses.

2. Spread of Infectious Diseases

Waste dumps are ideal environments for proliferating germs, viruses, and bacteria. People are always in danger of contracting skin, respiratory, and gastrointestinal infections. In public spaces, waste dumps aid the spread of infectious agents such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and helminths.

3. Allergies and Skin Irritations

Sensitive populations may experience allergic reactions to allergens (pollen, mould spores, dust mites, and pet dander) brought on by air and environmental pollution. These reactions include rashes, watery eyes, coughing, and difficulty breathing.

4. Reproductive, Mental, and Other Health Problems

Exposure to environmental contaminants during pregnancy and early childhood development can negatively affect neurodevelopment, cognitive function, and reproductive health.

Pesticides, heavy metals, and endocrine-disrupting chemicals from poor waste management techniques can all interfere with hormonal balance and reproductive processes. Deteriorating surroundings can also impact people’s mental health and well-being, increasing their risk of stress, anxiety, depression, and a general decline in quality of life.

In the meantime, prolonged exposure to carcinogenic substances such as industrial chemicals, hazardous waste, and air pollutants may raise the risk of acquiring leukaemia, lung cancer, and bladder cancer, among other cancers.

The health effects of public pollution are increasing dramatically, particularly for vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and low-income areas.

5. Environmental Consequences

Inappropriate waste disposal methods damage natural ecosystems, leading to unclean and littered public spaces, backed-up sewage systems, contaminated water sources and bodies, decreased biodiversity, and a climate emergency.

Such wastes damage marine life and other natural environments, upend species ecosystems, and endanger species’ survival when they are swept into streams, rivers, and oceans via erosion.

Such wastes, washed by erosion, flood into streams, rivers, and oceans, harming marine life and other natural habitats, disrupting species ecosystems, and threatening their survival.

6. Economic Costs

The cost of dirty public places impacts any city or community’s ability to grow economically since their residents are more likely to have health issues, which reduces the effectiveness of their human resources and overall economic growth.

Most people would prefer to safeguard their health than venture outside; hence, other economic activities like tourism, real estate and property values, outdoor living, and commercial activities come to a standstill.

However, environmental pollution adversely affects marine life and ocean resources, rendering them unsuitable for a wide range of commercial uses and activities, such as fishing, irrigation, biodiversity preservation, and more.


Given the danger that Lagos citizens face due to the dumpsites dispersed around the city, control measures must be put in place, and additional financing is undoubtedly required to address the problem. These are a few possible actions;

  • Outlawing open burning and enhancing the collection and disposal of solid trash.
  • Decrease the use of fuel generators over time and set emission criteria for them.
  • Offering rewards for using public transit and cleaner cars.


A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.

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