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Mexico City declares air pollution alert as smoke blankets capital

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Wednesday, May 15th, 2019

Courtesy : Reuters

MEXICO –  Authorities declared an environmental emergency on Tuesday (May 14) for metropolitan Mexico City, one of the world’s most populous megalopolises, as smoke from nearby wildfires pushed pollution to levels deemed potentially harmful to human health.

Environmental authorities advised residents to avoid outdoor activities and exercise, remain indoors with windows and doors shut, and for especially sensitive groups, including infants, the elderly and sick, stay at home.

The city’s Environmental Commission of the Megalopolis came under pressure to act after visibility in the city began dropping sharply last week due to ash and smoke in the air.

Dry weather has played a role in a spate of fires around the city.

Fine particulate matter known as PM2.5 hit 158 micrograms per cubic metre of air at the Nezahualcoyotl measuring station at 5 a.m.

The World Health Organisation recommends a daily mean air quality guideline below 25. Annual averages above that amount are associated with higher long-term mortality risks.

Mexico City’s air, once infamously lethal, saw a steady improvement through the late 1990s. In recent years however, there have been renewed signs of deterioration.

The environmental authority also asked residents and businesses to do their part in helping to reduce emissions, such as by using cars less, while authorities fight the numerous blazes raging in Mexico City and surrounding states. (REUTERS)

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Smog-ridden Mexico City suspends school classes due to pollution

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, May 17th, 2019

Courtesy : Reuters

Mexico’s government ordered schools in and around Mexico City to be closed on Thursday (May 16) in an extraordinary step taken due to elevated levels of pollution in the smog-wreathed capital.

The education ministry said in a statement on Wednesday (May 15) that the measure applies to public and private schools in the Mexico City metropolitan area, which is home to well over 20 million people. It recommended that children avoid exercise, remain indoors and avoid using contact lenses.

Two of the city’s principal seats of higher learning, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the National Polytechnic Institute, also said they would suspend classes in the metropolitan area on Thursday due to the pollution.

On Tuesday (May 14) the city’s authorities declared an environmental emergency. They have come under pressure to act due to reduced visibility caused by smoke and ash in the air during an extended dry spell.

“The increase in the temperature will worsen air pollution in cities because the chemical that pollution carries is dependent on the temperature. A prediction that is materialising is that there are an increasing numbers of forest fires because there is more drought, higher temperatures,” said the Environmental Consultant for the Mexico City Government.

“We have already seen this in the United States in California. We’ve had a very clear example of this in recent years,” it added.

Smoke from nearby wildfires has pushed pollution to levels deemed potentially harmful to human health.

“There are winds over Mexico City that are bringing with them particles that are setting off fires in different areas of the metropolitan area of the Mexico City valley area. Also, we’ve been informed that hopefully, this changes by the end of the week,” said Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum.

“I have a one-and-a-half year old baby and I am looking to protect myself from getting sick, so as not to have the medical expenses and from feeling bad. It (mouth mask) is more preventative and for my baby,” said Pamela Barajas, a local resident.

“As citizens there are issues that we don’t know about, for example, with the particles (in the air) that are affecting breathing. We are affected because we suddenly feel that our eyes and nasal passages are irritated so in this respect it is alarming. And for children, there was a child that got a haemorrhage (from the pollution). So, I want to think that this (school closure) is because of the pollution and heatwave, combined with the heatwave it (pollution) is a more serious problem,” said Natividad Malpica, a local resident.

The Federal Environment Department said Wednesday that 3,800 firefighters are combating an average of about 100 fires a day in brush, scrub, agricultural and forest land throughout the country. Fire risk is highest in the spring for much of Mexico because the summer rainy season has not yet started. (REUTERS)

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Residents advised to wear mask as air quality reaches ‘unhealthy’ level in Bangkok

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

Smog in Bangkok skyline on January 14, 2019 | Reuters

BANGKOK, Thailand – Thailand’s Department of Pollution Control has warned residents in Bangkok to wear mask due to high level of hazardous dust particles trapped in stagnant air.

The level of fine particulate matter or PM2.5 exceeded the safe level of 50 micrograms per cubic meter in many areas of greater Bangkok as of Monday (January 14).

PM 2.5 is a mixture of liquid droplets and solid particles that can include dust, soot and smoke.

It is one of the main pollutants included in measuring the Air Quality Index (AQI).

When inhaled, it can damage the human’s respiratory system.

It can also damage the environment by increasing acidity in the soil and bodies of water.

As of Tuesday (January 15), Bangkok’s AQI is at 168 or ‘unhealthy’, based on data from World Air Quality Index Project in its website aqicn.org which measures AQI in cities worldwide.

Water cannons were being used on Monday to clean the air and streets.

Thai authorities, meanwhile, handed out masks in an effort to combat air pollution.

The level of hazardous dust particles known as PM 2.5 has exceeded the safe level in 30 of 50 Bangkok’s districts for days, Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang told reporters at a news conference on Monday.

“People are saying this is the wrong solution to fix the root causes, and we have to admit that it is right, but we need to start now. I am asking for help from Bangkok residents to work on it together.”

Director General Pralong Dumrongthai of the Department of Pollution Control says diesel fumes from cars contribute 50 to 60 percent of the pollution while burning rubbish and crops attributed about 35 percent.

Any level above 150 is considered unhealthy and Bangkok ranked in the top 10 of polluted cities worldwide on Monday.

The government has banned large trucks from entering downtown Bangkok during rush hours, while police have vowed to enforce the law on emission controls. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Reuters)

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Mexicans seek to combat pollution with vertical gardens

by admin   |   Posted on Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

IMAGE_AUG-16-2016_UNTV-NEWS_VIA-VERDE

Mexico City, internationally known for its high levels of pollution and endless traffic jams, is developing a project to modify the look of hundreds of pillars supporting elevated roads with vertical gardens that will help to improve the urban image of the city, decrease pollution levels and reduce stress of motorists.

The project, called “Via Verde” or Greenway, is driven by civil associations and is supported by the local government and corporate sponsors.

The idea is to cover the columns, supporting the second floor of some of the busiest thoroughfares of the city, with green walls packed with different plant species, which will have an automated irrigation system fed by rainwater.

Architect Fernando Ortiz Monasterio, who came up with the project and who is one of its main promoters, argues that the green walls will help generate oxygen and absorb pollutants, in addition to moderating noise caused by traffic.

The green walls, added to concrete structures, have been placed on metal racks that avoid damage to the concrete structure. They can be opened up to check the columns are in good condition.

In this past March, Mexico City’s government ordered traffic restrictions and recommended people stay indoors due to serious air pollution, issuing its second-highest alert warning for ozone levels for the first time in 13 years. — UNTV News & Rescue

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