Latin America: particulate air pollution 2019, by selected city

Coyhaique, a city in southern Chile with a population of a little over 50 thousand inhabitants, was the most polluted city in Latin America in 2019, based on fine air particulate matter concentration (PM2.5). That year, the city reported an average PM2.5 concentration of 41.5 micrograms per cubic meter. In addition to industrial and transport air pollution, this result is the consequence of a cultural and geographical mixture very common in Chile, where pollution generated from burning wood for heating and cooking gets trapped by the mountains surrounding Chile’s extensive valleys.

Pollution in Latin American capitals

The Chilean capital, Santiago, registered an average PM2.5 concentration of 27.7 μg/m³ in 2019. Lima, the Peruvian capital, had an estimated PM2.5 concentration of around 23.7 μg/m³, while in the capital of Mexico (Mexico City), air pollution amounted to 20.5 μg/m³. The World Health Organization's air quality standards recommend a maximum annual average concentration of 10 μg/m³. In 2019, Quito was the only capital in the region reported to have met this standard, with a concentration of 8.6 μg/m³.

The burden of pollution on health

Air particulate pollution has been associated with an increase in mortality from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as development of lung cancer. In fact, over 200 thousand deaths in Latin America and the Caribbean have been attributable to air pollution exposure in 2017. In the past decade, the number of deaths attributable to air pollution in Mexico and Chile has increased by 18 and 7 percent, respectively.

Air particulate matter concentration in selected Latin American cities in 2019

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Source

Release date

March 2020

Region

Central and South America, Mexico

Survey time period

2019

Special properties

Average values

Supplementary notes

PM2.5 refers to particulate matter with a diameter smaller than 2.5 microns.
Data about cities in Mexico and Guatemala were retrieved from this link.

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Statistics on "Environment in Latin America"

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