The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has installed a new high-tech monitoring station in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, to monitor air quality and detect ozone depletion in the eastern African region.
The Kenya-based environmental body said on Thursday that the newly installed Nairobi Validation Station, within the world environmental headquarters grounds in the Gigiri suburb, was the first of its kind in "tropical and subtropical" Africa.
"Nairobi has become a key linchpin in a United Nations-backed effort to save the ozone layer and track pollution flows across the globe," UNEP said in a statement.
One of the key roles of the new station is to help identify ozone-damaging chemicals produced in the region from both human-made and natural sources such as vegetation, according to UNEP. The new station will also detect ozone emitted from industry, transport, agriculture, forest fires and charcoal burning in the East African part of the tropics.
Klaus Toepfer, the UNEP executive director, who inaugurated the project, described ozone as a "curious chemical".
According to Toepfer, ozone acted as a shield in the upper atmosphere, which protects life on earth from damaging levels of solar radiation. Small amounts of ozone in the lower atmosphere were helpful, acting as a detergent to clean the air, but high amounts, formed by sunlight mixing with human-made pollution from cars, factories and other sources, could be harmful, he said in the statement.
"These smogs - increasingly a phenomenon in developing as well as developed countries - can prove fatal for vulnerable people such as those with heart conditions and asthma, and can also damage car tires, electricity cables and crops," Toepfer said.
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