Mexico City- Air Quality

Mexico City is located in a valley which traps pollutants within the local environment. This has lead to the city having major air pollution issues. In 1992, the UN described the air as the most polluted on the planet. In 1998, this earned it the reputation of the most dangerous city for children.

The government has thus been trying to improve their image.

Factors contributing to the low air quality

  • Industrial growth
  • Population boom (3 million in 1950 to 20 million now)
  • Proliferation of vehicles. 3.5 million vehicles in the city, 30% more than 20 years old.
  • Mexico City is about 2,240 m above sea level; there are lower oxygen levels at this altitude, so fuels will often perform incomplete combustion, releasing more dangerous chemicals such as Carbon Monoxide instead of Carbon Dioxide
  • Intense sunlight can turn chemicals into greater intensities of smog.

Solving the problem

In the 1990’s the government introduced air quality campaigns that included a rotating one-weekday ban on private car use. On days of high pollution there are more weekday bands and some bands on heavy industry. Car owners have to have their vehicles certified every 6 months.

Researchers on the air pollution issue have trained local people to have a greater awareness for the importance of air quality. They also trained people on better consumption and purchasing practices.

A support group was also set up to aid those affected by air pollution and those at higher risk of effect- the very young, the sick, and very old.

Tangible benefits

Due to the health impacts of various chemicals in the air pollution, many people were dying much younger than they would otherwise. More than 20 researchers from various research groups put together information on the benefits removing the pollution would have on the city. They estimated that removing one microgram per cubic metre of a chemical called PM10 would be worth about US$100 million annually. Reducing PM10 and Ozone by 10% would save US$760 million annually.

That translates to 33,287 fewer ER trips for respiratory issues and 266 fewer child deaths annually.


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