Top 4 Causes of air pollution in Mexico city

Over the years, there have been some causes of air pollution in Mexico City. This has put them on the map for one of the most polluted cities on Earth and also one of the densest locations.

Clean air is an essential need for all, not just a luxury. Air pollution is a real problem in Mexico, causing about one in 17 (5.9%) of all deaths in the country. The most dangerous of the airborne particles are known as PM 2.5 (particles less than 2.5 thousandths of a millimetre across) which can penetrate deep into the lung.

Mexico city located in Mexico is the 10th largest populated city in the world with a population of more than 20 million people. Like many other large cities across the world, it faces problems with pollution. Mexico city started rapidly industrialising in the 1960s.

With this industrialisation came a huge influx of population. Mexico city’s population became a problem from as early as 1985. Various newspaper articles brought up this problem.

Problems ranged from birds dying in numbers to people suffering from lead, copper, and mercury poisoning due to the polluted air. Even during the winter, the school day had been pushed to start at 10 am instead of 8 am.

In 1990, there was 90 per cent of days where the amount of ozone in the air reached dangerous levels. By 2009 that had fallen to 180 days. The government hopes that the extra 2 hours would allow smog in the air to clear away before children went outside.

In 1992, the United Nation called Mexico City the most polluted city in the world and ever since, they have been trying to change things.

At the time, however, the government took action, saying it was only “a potential health problem. In most cities, pollution can escape since hot air rises and cold air sinks, allowing air to be circulated. However, the airborne particles of pollution don’t have anywhere to go.

To make the problem even worse, when the temperatures are low, a layer of cod air lies atop the pollutants trapping them in the city. This is known as thermal inversion.  Some of the main airborne pollutants include sulphur dioxide nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide, as well as ozone, which is considered to be dangerous when at ground level.

But there is another chemical that is also dangerous t the people living in the city. It is called PM 10 of particle matter. This particulate matter comes from anything from burning wood to laying in a new road and it is more dangerous than ozone.

Mexico city tests air quality at 29 different locations. The staff of the city’s Environment Ministry take measurements of a range of pollutants including the probable carcinogen cadmium. Employees calculate average levels and publish their findings online.

The measurements often point to poor air quality. Considering it in the historical context, the air used to be bad all the time. Mexico City was one of the dirtiest cities in the world but the environmental policies of the last 25 years have led to a significant reduction in pollution and this trend is set to continue even though the city is still growing.

How Bad is Mexico City Air Pollution

Mexico city is one of the densest cities in the world and is notorious for the poor quality of its air. Since the early 1990s, an emergency was declared after birds dropped dead because of air pollution but over the years, authorities have implemented measures to improve the quality of air for the more than 20 million people who call that city home.

A shroud of pollution hangs over Mexico city’s giant metropolitan area home to more than 20 million people. Some days, air pollution makes it impossible to see the hills and mountains surrounding the capital.

Half the year, usually the colder months bad air here can harm people’s health. People have some effects like eyes and throat irritation. The decision to switch to unleaded gasoline over the last 20 years has air people breathe in Mexico City.

Expanded public transportation also help limit air pollution. But the city’s government officials know there is always room for improvement. 24 hours a day, the city financed experts use radar to monitor wind speed keeping track of the movement of microparticles of pollution which can lodge deep into people’s lungs.

Mexico city’s director of air quality monitoring says that potentially dangerous microparticles are always present. When it comes to air pollution, airborne microparticles and ozone remain Mexico city’s biggest challenges.

The World Health Organisation has set a limit for average outdoor ambient air pollution of 10 micrograms of PM 2.5 per cubic metre of air. However, average concentrations in Mexico City are about 25 micrograms of PM 2.5 per cubic metre of air.

Air pollution in Mexico City has been a concerning issue to all citizens and members of the health departments for some time. In the 20th century, Mexico city’s population rapidly increased as industrialisation brought thousands of migrants from all over the world.

Being exposed to atmospheric pollutants is associated with several health issues; nevertheless, many factors can play an important role, for example: how long and how often you are exposed to the pollutants, genetic susceptibility, what type of pollutants are in the air, amongst other factors.

Mexico City has been plagued by air pollution for decades. Some residents believe officials have been too slow to react to the emergency. Mexico City’s government have attributed the city’s problem to cars, factories, higher temperatures and wildfires.

A solution to this problem could be to add an extra tax for all cars that have more than 4 cylinders since cars with more cylinders use more fuel and it is not necessary for a city where there are many cars and you cannot drive more than 80km/hr.

Another solution would be to force all cars and trucks to pass a verification test so that cars that do not pass this test are prohibited from driving on the streets.

The biggest problem faced in this country is corruption, the country is governed by corrupt individuals that only seek their monetary interest including the president. Another barrier is that citizens do not receive a punishment for evading the law.

There are a lot of people in the city so, there is a lot of traffic on the streets. The first people to act should be politicians, they should create laws and rules for verification of cars and apply sanctions to those who do not comply.

If the politicians do not act, then the citizens can try to only use the cars when more than one person travels in the car or if they are very long distances. It would be advisable to use public transport most of the time.

Top 4 Causes of Air Pollution in Mexico City

Below are the top 4 causes of air pollution in Mexico City.

  • WIldfires
  • Vehicular Emissions
  • Industrial Plant Emissions
  • Surrounding Mountains that does not allow Pollutants to Escape

1. Wildfires

Wildfires is one of the top causes of air pollution in Mexico City.

Fire near Mexico City has filled the skies with smoke in recent times more than ever before. Wildfires on the American continent is aggravated by drought and rising temperatures. Apart from the fires, Mexico City is one of the most polluted cities in the world.

The dense cloud of toxic air in the atmosphere of Mexico city is major as a result of dozens of wildfires burning in southern Mexico and Central America. Due to wildfires, pollution levels in the city passes critical points.

Of recent, there have been prolonged drought and high-temperature seasons. This consequently resulted in wildfires (the burning of forests). this makes the air quality in the city to become so bad that the local government urge the people to stay indoors as the air outside is unsafe to breathe.

Climate change brings warmer temperatures which lead to more fires and this brings more ozone and more particles. Also, solvents get evaporated faster with temperature rise.

So if there are higher temperatures, lots of emissions are going to be generated. There are a lot of serious health issues like premature deaths, heart attacks, and vascular brain diseases.

2. Vehicular Emissions

Vehicular emissions is one of the top causes of air pollution in Mexico City.

Mexico city most important air pollutants are Ozone, Sulphur dioxide, Nitrogen dioxide, Hydrocarbons and Carbon monoxide and they are mostly caused by gas exhaust from vehicles.

Vehicles using combustible fuels are the main culprits. About 8 million vehicles circulate every day in the Mexican capital and it is estimated that they produce more than 7,000 tons of pollution every day. This in turn creates smog.

Older vehicles especially buses and trucks are the main sources of Mexico city air pollution, they have caused by far the most damage to the environment. The government wants to take as many as possible off the roads.

Drivers who have their older vehicles scrapped are eligible for government subsidies, an incentive to switch to more environmentally-friendly models. Germany’s international development agency advises the city employees on how to run the program.

For every truck that is crushed as part of the scrappage scheme, there is a reduction of 20 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. This leads to a significant improvement in Mexico’s air quality.

In the quest to reduce emission levels, most of the drivers are now restricted from using their cars one day a week. Don’t drive day is a green framework and one of the initiatives to improve the quality of life for citizens.

3. Industrial Plant Emissions

Industrial plant emissions is is one of the top causes of air pollution in Mexico City.

Fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) are the main source of energy in Mexican factories but the use of fossil fuels can lead to pollution. Their combustion releases chemicals and gases or primary pollutants into the air.

These primary pollutants can cause any number of problems from eye and throat irritation in people to global warming.

Primary pollutants include carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulphur oxides and particulate matter like dust, ash, etc. in addition to being dangerous on their own, when exposed to the sun, many primary pollutants go through a photochemical reaction that creates secondary pollutants which are nitrogen dioxide, sulphuric acid and Ozone.

Primary and secondary pollutants combined with aerosols (tiny particles like water droplets, dust and soot that are suspended in the air) can form smog (the brown haze seen over large cities like Los Angeles, Mexico city and sometimes in Denver.

A few years ago, very important measures were taken. They began by changing the fuels that were used in the city, they switched from heavy fuel oil to natural gas for the power plants in the big industries.

4. Surrounding Mountains that does not allow Pollutants to Escape

Surrounding Mountains that does not allow Pollutants to Escapes is one of the top causes of air pollution in Mexico City.

The unique geographical structure of Mexico city allows pollutants of carbon monoxide to stay in the air. Mexico City is surrounded by mountains making it seem as if it is trapped by higher walls of mountains.

This makes the city look like a basin hence, the popular phrase-Mexico city air basin. Because of the structure of the land, the winds are not able to push smog over the surrounding mountains and as a result, many pollutants like carbon monoxide build up over the city.

The highest level of carbon monoxide in the air is usually on weekday mornings between 7:00 and 9:00 am. During this period, the temperatures low atmospheric stability and heavy traffic all occur at the same time.

In the evenings the winds effectively circulate through the air but the particles remain nearby it to be blown into the city again the next morning.

FAQs

  • How is Mexico city trying to reduce air pollution?

While pollution problems are visible as early as 1986, Mexico city’s problems persist. Health problems particularly for the young and healthy, range from allergy-like effects to serious cases such as asthma. However, not all hope is lost.

The government has put programs in place that are believed to help remedy the city such as PROAIRE, PIICA. PROAIRE, and the three programs that have followed since try to show the citizen of Mexico city more environmentally friendly ways to live and be generally aware of their surroundings.

There are other initiatives as well including educational programs in Women’s Centre and Schools. Communities themselves are trying to learn what pollution is about and how they can help.

Although Mexico City has had a difficult fight with pollution for many years, there is hope for the future. While pollution cannot be rid of in its entirety, every little contribution helps.

Drivers who have their older vehicles scrapped are eligible for government subsidies, an incentive to switch to more environmentally-friendly models. Germany’s international development agency advises the city employees on how to run the program.

For every truck that is crushed as part of the scrappage scheme, there is a reduction of 20 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. This leads to a significant improvement in Mexico’s air quality.

In the quest to reduce emission levels, most of the drivers are now restricted from using their cars one day a week. Don’t drive day is a green framework and one of the initiatives to improve the quality of life for citizens.

Rooftops are not being transformed into gardens adding more oxygen to the atmosphere and keeping the buildings cool. Other initiatives including the first bike hire scheme in Latin America are all contributing to the cleaner air.

References

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