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Latin America: deaths from air pollution 2019, by country

In 2019, there were more than 230 thousand deaths attributable to air pollution in Latin America and the Caribbean. Brazil was the country with the largest number of deaths, at approximately 60.9 thousand. Mexico followed, with 48,300 deaths.

An invisible killer among Brazilians

In Brazil, fine-particle outdoor pollution (PM2.5) – meaning particles with a diameter smaller than 2.5 micrometers – accounted for more than 70 percent of the estimated 60,900 deaths due to air pollution. The number of fatalities attributed to particulate matter in the South American country continues to climb in recent years, despite a short downward trajectory reported in the first half of the decade. In its fine form, particulate matter has been credited as a leading cause of respiratory-related diseases, the third most prominent cause of death among Brazilians. Coal and waste burning, industrial activities, and heavy vehicular traffic are some of the main causes of ambient air pollution.

The burden of fuel burning

Although Brazil and Mexico have the highest death tolls due to air pollution in Latin America – a result not entirely unexpected, as these countries have the largest populations in the region – they do not necessarily have the region's highest urban pollution levels. Instead, Chile had some of the most polluted cities in Latin America in 2019. These high levels have been mostly ascribed to a cultural tradition of wood-fired cooking. A similar situation can be found in Haiti. In 2019, the Caribbean country – which ranked fourth in deaths due to air pollution in Latin America, despite not even making it to the top ten in terms of population – had by far the largest share of population exposed to household air pollution from solid fuels in the region. In turn, household air pollution accounted for some 85 percent of deaths due to air pollution estimated for the country that year.

Number of deaths attributable to air pollution exposure in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2019, by country

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Release date

October 2020



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Statistics on "Environment in Latin America"

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