Latin America’s top 19 cities for 2019 PM 2.5 air pollution all exceed US EPA 12 μg/m³ standard

November 28, 2020

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) according to a September 8, 2020 Statistica report.

Top 10 Latin American cities for PM 2.5. Click image to enlarge/expand list to top 20 cities.

That year, the city reported an average PM2.5 concentration of 41.5 μg/m³ (micrograms per cubic meter). By comparison the U.S. EPA national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for fine particle pollution is 12 micrograms per cubic meter.

Of the 20 cities listed only Quito, Ecuador (8.6 μg/m³) was below EPA’s standard.

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.

What this means to you
19 of 20 Latin American cities’ PM 2.5 pollution exceed US EPA’s national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for fine particle pollution of 12 micrograms per cubic meter.

MIRATECH can help
Contact MIRATECH for stationary engine control of particulate matter in Latin America.