Mexico City: How is the air quality?

Pollution rates that affect air quality in the Mexican capital are high.

Latin American Post | Moises Campos

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Leer en español: Ciudad de México: ¿cómo es la calidad del aire?

Air pollution affects México City and the Metropolitan Area of the Mexican Valley (ZMVM), this has been the reason why the Federal Government , through the Ministry of the Environment , created a website, www.aire.cdmx.gob .mx , where real-time information on air quality is offered to citizens. This information is collected through the different monitoring stations that constantly measure pollutants, in order to provide information on the level of contamination, its effects on health and the measures that must be taken to minimize the damage it may cause to the human body. Also on this page people can check the ultraviolet radiation index, to know if it is necessary to use UV protection when being outdoors.

Causes of air pollution in ZMVM

Poor air quality in Mexico City and the ZMVM is caused by multiple factors, but the main ones are the following:

  • The main source of pollution in ZMVM is transport, both private and public and heavy cargo, which together emit 49% of nitrogen oxide (NO) emissions into the atmosphere, according to the Institute of Policies for the Transportation and Development (ITDP Mexico).
  • Private transport and public transport are also responsible, although to a lesser extent, for the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), at 6% and 4% respectively. Traffic congestion in the city is one of the factors that affect this, caused by a poor public transport system and an excess of private vehicles, as established by the INEGI (National Institute of Statistics and Geography).
  • Houses also contribute to the detriment of air quality , taking into account that 44% of VOC emissions are caused by gas leaks and poor combustion in gas stoves and heaters, according to the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change (INECC), to which is added the uncontrolled use of products such as lacquers, perfumes and pesticides, among others.
  • Industry is another of the major culprits for poor air quality throughout the area, particularly as it is the main responsible for the emission of 43% of the toxic gases that are breathed in the city, and which are highly harmful to health such as toluene, xylene, and lead.

Another factor that alters air quality in Mexico City is the great emission of greenhouse gases produced by vehicles, industry and residential homes, with the negative consequences that derive from it. Carbon dioxide, one of the main greenhouse gases, is produced almost entirely by transportation, both those that use gasoline and diesel. They are also the main emitters of black carbon and methane.

Consequences of air pollution in Mexico City

The results of air pollution in Mexico City , both for health and urban infrastructure, are:

Acid rain

It occurs when the natural pH of the water decreases, causing it to become more acidic, which has negative effects on urban infrastructure, vegetation, and the population. Acid rain can dissolve the materials of different types of buildings and monuments in the city, and can even affect the paintwork of vehicles. Vegetation and water sources are strongly affected, which is reflected in an increase in vulnerability to pests and a decrease in aquatic life.

Increase in ozone concentration

The health effects of high ozone concentrations are reflected in an increase in eye conditions and a decrease in respiratory capacity, in addition to being related to an increase in mortality from derived diseases. In the agricultural part, the high levels of this particle can cause that the yield of the crops is much lower.

High concentration of carbon monoxide

Vehicles of any type are the main causes of high levels of carbon monoxide in the air we breathe and, therefore, of its consequences on health . It is known that high concentrations of this compound can be fatal, and that, to a lesser extent, they cause nausea, dizziness and headache.

Also read: What's next for climate change after COVID-19?

How can you help improve air quality?

Both the different institutions of the Federal Government, as NGOs, establish simple guidelines to follow to involve the entire population in improving air quality in Mexico City :

  • It is advisable to avoid using the vehicle if it is not necessary, and share it as much as possible on the most common trips, such as going to work.
  • Use the bicycle when you are going to take short trips, walk or use public transport.
  • Maintain the vehicle in good mechanical condition and carry out the vehicle check every six months.
  • Prevent domestic gas leaks in the home, keeping stoves and water heaters in good condition.
  • Take steps like reducing time in the shower.
  • Avoid using solvents or burning polluting wastes.

Knowing which are the main factors that affect air quality in Mexico City and its metropolitan area allows the design of measures aimed at minimizing the emission of pollutants, which go through the establishment of vehicle control plans, such as the Vehicle Verification Program , until creating oriented plans educating citizens about the measures to take at home and in its environment to avoid environmental pollution.