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LATIN AMERICA
Air quality lagging
9/29/2011
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World Health Organization survey shows some Latin American cities have harmful levels of air pollution.

Air pollution levels in Latin American cities are high enough to cause serious health problems, according to a survey released by the World Health Organization, or WHO, on Sept. 26.

Lima, Bogota, and Santiago, Chile ranked among the most polluted capitals, where the density of PM10 particles — small solid or liquid particles of dust, ash, soot, cement, metal or pollen that are dispersed in the atmosphere, whose size is less than 10 micrometers (1 micrometer corresponds one hundredth of a millimeter) — exceed the body’s recommended limits of 20 micrograms per cubic meter.

The WHO’s air quality survey showed the PM10 particles can “penetrate into the lungs and may enter the bloodstream, can cause heart disease, lung cancer, asthma, and acute lower respiratory infections.”

Lima scored an average of 78 micrograms/cubic meter; Santa Cruz, Bolivia, 83; Bogota 77; Rancagua, Chile 74; Santiago, Chile 69, and Mexicali, Mexico, 137, the highest density in Latin America. San José, Costa Rica’s average of 28 was the lowest of any capital in the region.

“Air pollution is a major environmental health issue and it is vital that we increase efforts to reduce the health burden it creates,” said Dr. María Neira, WHO director for public health and environment. “If we monitor and manage the environment properly we can significantly reduce the number of people suffering from respiratory and heart disease, and lung cancer.”

For his part, Carlos Dora, WHO coordinator for interventions for healthy environments in the department of public health and environment, said: “Solutions to outdoor air pollution problems in a city will differ depending on the relative contribution of pollution sources, its stage of development, as well as its local geography.”
—Latinamerica Press.


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