Health risk assessment of kerosene usage in an informal settlement in Durban, South Africa.
In Durban, South Africa studies have shown that more than seven out of ten households in low-income metropolitan areas rely on kerosene for domestic purposes, leading to widespread problems of poor indoor air quality. In light of the known health effects of kerosene usage, this study aimed to quantify the health risk for people living in a densely populated informal settlement known as Cato Crest within the Durban metropolitan area. The pollutants investigated included nitrogen dioxide, benzene and toluene. Nitrogen dioxide is known to affect both respiratory and immune systems, benzene is carcinogenic while toluene has a neurological health end point. All three pollutants are harmful when inhaled. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) health risk assessment (HRA) framework was applied. Information on the exposure patterns of residents in Cato Crest were acquired through questionnaires in which data on fuel use, building structure, cooking habits and time-activity patterns were collected. Air quality monitoring of nitrogen dioxide and volatile organic compounds was also conducted in the households. The time-activity pattern survey revealed that the exposure periods of individuals in Cato Crest were far greater than the default exposure periods used by the US EPA. The results of the HRA showed that the residents of Cato Crest may experience significant health risks as a result of kerosene usage in their homes. Exposure to 1-h nitrogen dioxide concentration is not likely to produce adverse health effects, whereas exposure over a 24-h period indicates a potential health risk to sensitive individuals in two of the households when US EPA exposure values are used and in all of the households when locally derived exposure values are used. Benzene poses a health risk to sensitive individuals in 50% of the households when local exposure parameters are used, whereas there is no health risk associated with exposure to toluene.
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