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article imageChile: Severe air pollution affecting seven major cities

By Igor I. Solar     Jul 5, 2013 in Environment
Santiago - Seven Chilean cities, with a total population of close to seven million people, have accumulated in the first semester of 2013 more than 37 days of dangerous levels of air quality exceeding the daily maximum norm of fine particulate matter (PM2.5).
According to measurements made (until June 30) by the regional environmental authorities, the cities of Santiago de Chile, Rancagua, Talca, Chillán, Los Angeles, Temuco and Osorno have exceeded the maximum daily standard (50 µg/m3 [micrograms per cubic meter]) of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) between 37 and 58 days during the first half of 2013.
The city most affected by air pollution is Rancagua (245,000 inhabitants) where the standard was exceeded on 58 occasions. Other cities where the population has had to suffer high levels of air pollution for more than 49 days are Temuco, Chillán, Los Angeles and Osorno, which together have nearly 900,000 inhabitants. The capital, Santiago de Chile, home to some 5.5 million people, has been affected by pollution levels above the standard in 45 days.
On occasions, pollution levels have required the declaration of "Environmental Emergency" (EE). According to the Chilean norm of air quality an EE must be declared when the concentration of PM2.5 reaches a level of 170 µg/m3 or higher. The city of Temuco has had seven environmental emergency instances so far this year. During the month of June, doctors reported a 25 percent increase in respiratory illnesses and a corresponding rise in the number of hospitalizations.
Hazy air conditions in the city of Temuco in southern Chile make breathing difficult for residents.
Hazy air conditions in the city of Temuco in southern Chile make breathing difficult for residents.
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Small particles less than 2.5 micrometers (100 times thinner than a human hair) are the most dangerous and harmful to human health. These fine particles are very light and can remain airborne for days or weeks. PM2.5 can pass through the smaller airways deeper into the lungs. The small particles may be composed of toxic elements (such as heavy metals and organic compounds that can cause cancer). PM2.5 particles may have worse effects on human health than larger particles (PM10).
Environmental authorities have stated that there are plans aiming to reduce the concentrations of particulate matter 2.5 by 30 percent in 10 years through various measures including control of industrial emissions, control of emissions from wood-burning heaters, and control of emissions from transport vehicles.
More about Air pollution, Rancagua Chile, Temuco Chile, Air quality, PM25
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