Recent studies indicate that over 100 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean are exposed to air pollution levels hazardous to all living beings. Thusly, it is violating the World Health Organization guidelines established in the hopes to better the health of all.
Health problems due to poor air quality have been among the main environmental concerns in Mexico City, Santiago de Chile, Bogotá, Sao Paulo, Lima, and Quito, among other cities in the region.
Santiago de Chile and Mexico City are the most recent cases of pollution alerts in Latin America. Nevertheless, cities like Medellin, Colombia have also started to raise concerns due to their ever growing smog problem.
Earlier on this year, Santiago de Chile had its first environmental emergency of 2017 due to air pollution. Due to such a dangerous situation, drastic measures were taken by the mayor of the Chilean city, Claudio Orrego. Vehicular restrictions and several environmental axes were established exclusively for public transportation. Also, the use of heaters and the burning of wood has been controlled by the government due to its harmful residue.
Meanwhile, in Mexico City, the Environmental Commission of the Megalopolis (CAMe) suspended the so-called atmospheric ozone contingency after five consecutive days of alarm. Since May 16th of this year, the authorities have restricted the circulation of private vehicles and carried out mechanical revisions in 106 companies, most of them in the industrial sector.
During the last two decades, several countries in Latin America have begun to raise interest in the matter and have tried to deal with said problem. In addition to strengthening environmental institutions and upgrading environmental measurement systems, ecological standards have been imposed throughout the region, especially for industries, vehicles, both old and new, and fuel quality.
Despite this progress, however, the level of knowledge about air pollution’s impact on health is limited in much of the Latin American region, even though it is considered a medium to high priority issue. Moreover, the social costs of health damages from urban air pollution has not yet received systematic study except in a few locations.
LatinAmerican Post | Manuela Pulido
Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto