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Latin America: which are the cities with the cleanest and the most contaminated air?

In Latin America it is essential to implement measures to reduce air pollution

Latin America: which are the cities with the cleanest and the most contaminated air?

Air pollution is a serious problem for the world population, because in the last six years its levels have remained high. This situation has led to nine out of ten people breathing air with high levels of pollutants, causing the death of seven million people a year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Leer en español: Latinoamérica: ¿cuáles son las ciudades con el aire más limpio y con el más contaminado?

These deaths are due to both outdoor pollution and harmful air inside homes, caused mainly by food preparation methods, inefficient energy, sand and dust from the desert, burning waste and deforestation that can be aggravated by geographical, meteorological and seasonal factors.

According to the Health Agency of the United Nations (UN), the pollution of fine particles causes life-threatening diseases such as strokes, heart attacks, pulmonary obstructions and respiratory infections, greatly affecting children, people who do their jobs outdoors and women.

The "reasonable" level of contaminating particles is an annual average of up to 10 micrograms per cubic meter. If the presence is greater, it can be considered that there is contamination harmful to health and if it is less, that the air is clean. The particles in suspension are the main ingredients of the mists, fumes and dust in suspension, which generate serious problems in the quality of the air. These particles have a wide range of sizes and are classified according to their aerodynamic diameter in PM10 (particles with an aerodynamic diameter less than 10 microns) or PM2.5 (aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 microns). The latter are more dangerous, since when inhaled they can reach the peripheral areas of the bronchioles and alter the pulmonary exchange of gases.

In Latin America you can find both types of air. Among the Latin American cities with the cleanest air are:

  • Salvador de Bahía: is a Brazilian city and municipality, which according to the World Health Organization has the cleanest air in Latin America. This is because the annual average indicated that in the air only 9 micrograms of PM 2.5 per cubic meter and 17 micrograms of PM10 were suspended (particles less harmful than PM 2.5).
  • Ibarra: the Ecuadorian city better known as "the white city" (La ciudad blanca, in Spanish) is the second city in Latin America with the least contaminated air, according to WHO, since 9 micrograms of PM 2.5 and 18 micrograms were found suspended in the air of PM 10.
  • Cali: is a city in Colombia that according to the measurements of the DAGMA (Administrative Department of Environmental Management, in English) is below what is allowed by the norm in the country (50 micrograms per cubic meter of particulate material circulating in the air), since 19 micrograms per cubic meter were found suspended in the air.

On the other hand, in Latin America there were also worrying levels of pollution in the air. Among the cities with the most polluted air in the region are:

  • Cochabamba: is a city in Bolivia known for its pleasant climate and vegetation. However, it is one of the cities with the highest pollution index in Latin America due to its topography, the emission of gases from the vehicle fleet and other causes of human origin. 41 micrograms per cubic meter of particulate material were found suspended in the air.
  • Lima: is a city in Peru whose general index of polluting particles is 38 micrograms of PM 2.5 per cubic meter. In the subdivision of Lima Norte, 58 micrograms were revealed, that is, almost six times the level established by WHO. The main sources of outdoor air pollution include the gases emitted by the fleet units, the gases and dust generated by the fishing, mining and metallurgical industries and the burning of waste.
  • Rancagua: this Chilean city has a particle pollutant index of 54 micrograms of PM 2.5, mainly due to the burning of firewood for residential heating, forest fires, agricultural combustion, industrial activity and the emission of gases of the automotive park.

In Latin America, it is necessary to generate measures by the governments to reduce existing pollution and prevent deaths due to pollution.

Latin American Post | Andrea del Pilar Rojas Riaño

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