The study under review is “Environmental and health impact of solid waste disposal in developing cities: A case study of Granville Brook Dumpsite, Freetown, Sierra Leone” by Sankoh, Yan, and Tran that was published in the Journal of Environmental Protection in 2013. The article presents a recent piece of research of the effects that solid waste dumpsite can produce on the residents of settlements located nearby. Impact of Waste Project: Research Brief
In the modern era of rapidly growing production and consumption, environmental concerns are increasing by the day. In particular, the contemporary businesses and organizations involved in the production and provision of goods and services of various types, as well as the average consumers of these goods and services daily engage in hazardous practices resulting is large amounts of waste. The latter pollutants are disposed of in a variety of manners, and in most cases, end up infiltrating the air, ground waters, soil, or even entering the food chain. The sites of solid waste located close to human settlements tend to produce numerous adverse effects on public health, and thus require smart and effective solutions aimed at the management, prevention, and mitigation of waste.
Solid waste represents that produced by the households. According to the recent research, from the approximate 0.6 kg per individual daily, the generated amount of solid household waste rose to 1.2 kg per person over just one decade between 2002 and 2012 (Ziraba, Hagery, & Mberu, 2016). Consequently, the amount of solid waste is projected to grow in the nearest future. Moreover, solid waste is dumped on the sites many of which are located close to human settlements, and thus can produce negative public health impacts that occur from chemical and radioactive pollution resulting from waste disposal, as well as the breach of norms of sanitation. An additional complication of this problem is presented by the difficulty of measuring the exact degree of public health impacts resulting from waste disposal, its slow and sometimes untraceable effects, and problematic measurement of health outcomes of this pollutant.
The healthy People 2020 Initiative focuses on a set of environmental health objectives some of which specifically aim at the quality of the outdoor air, surface, and ground waters (“Environmental health,” 2017). The primary research article reviewed in this brief elaborates on this problem and links it to public health risks.
In order to evaluate the public health risks faced by the population residing nearby a large open dumpsite, Sankoh, Yan, and Tran (2013) assessed the impacts experienced by the settlers dwelling near a waste disposal site (Granville Brook Dumpsite) in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The study took place in a country of West Africa where the problem of waste pollution is quite significant due to the lack of sustainable development strategies applied on a national basis.
A qualitative study design was used for this research as the authors aimed at the evaluation of the perceptions of the local population in relation to the dumpsite and the impacts it produced on their health, as well as the potential solutions that could help address the situation and minimize public health risks.
A stratified random sampling method was employed for the purpose of selecting of a suitable sample. A total of 971 households located close and far away from the open dumpsite were selected and included in the sample; of them, 65% (or 631) of households with 398 residents were located closer than 50 meters to the dumpsite, and the remaining 35% with 233 residents were situated further than 50 meters from the site.
Data Collection Methods
The sample was assessed with the help of a 2-part structured questionnaire (with open and closed-ended questions) targeting the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the participants, as well as their health problems and perceptions related to the site and knowledge concerning the hazards of waste pollution.
In addition to the primary data collected from the residents, the researchers also reviewed a substantial body of the related literature to expand their background knowledge of the problem.
The researchers found that the severity of public health problems in the dwellers was directly associated with the proximity of their homes to the site (Sankoh et al., 2013). The specific health problems linked to the adverse effects of waste pollution included chest pains, malaria, diarrhea, cholera, and irritation of skin, nose, and eyes. Apart from diarrhea, cholera, and chest pains – all of the problems were more severe in the people living closer to the site. The researchers found that these effects resulted from the burning of waste, the pollution of ground water, and the breach of sanitation; so the main contaminants were chemical fumes, by-products of decaying organic tissue, various types of plastic, and chemical solid waste (Sankoh et al., 2013).
Interestingly, according to the socioeconomic characteristics of the sample presented by the researchers, the majority of the assessed individuals had either a primary level of education or no education at all; also, in regard to the dominant methods of household waste disposal, the authors noted that the majority of residents preferred the dumpsite, the streets and drains, or simply burning the waste in pits.
As a result, it is possible to make a conclusion that the lack of general education of the residents contributed to their lack of understanding of the harm of littering.
Mitigation and Prevention Options
Dumping sites such as Granville Brook in Freetown, Sierra Leone, are located all around the world in urban and rural areas endangering the local population. The main mitigation responses to this problem are based on the smart management of waste involving its sorting and more harmless disposal (incineration or recycling). When it comes to the prevention of the growth of such sites and the emergence of the consequent hazards, such practices and the replacement, reuse, reduction, and recycling are the most effective. In particular, they target the local population aiming the minimization of the amount of waste they produce, as well as at the change of its overall quality, by means of engaging the residents to adopt more sustainable and eco-conscious behaviors. In addition, as it seemed to occur in the residents of Freetown, the low level of environmental literacy and understanding of the connection of waste and pollution to the public health outcomes and problems is another significant factor contributing to the development of the issue. In that way, raising awareness of the hazards presented by pollution and waste could help prevent littering, encourage recycling and reuse, and decrease the amount of waste accumulating in the rural and urban dumpsites.
Environmental health. (2017). Web.
Sankoh, F., Yan, X., & Tran, Q. (2013). Environmental and health impact of solid waste disposal in developing cities: A case study of Granville Brook Dumpsite, Freetown, Sierra Leone. Journal of Environmental Protection, 4(7), 665-670. Web.
Ziraba, A., Haregu, T., & Mberu, B. (2016). A review and framework for understanding the potential impact of poor solid waste management on health in developing countries. Archives of Public Health, 74(1). Web.