Aug 102010

A recent short piece in The Economist, “A breath of fresh air” (31 July 2010) echoes Geo-Mexico’s contention that air quality has been improving in Mexico City in recent years, but declining in other large cities, especially Monterrey.

The improving air quality in Mexico City is attributed to:

  • relocation of heavy industry away from the city
  • closure of the Azcapotzalco oil refinery (1991); part of this area is now a public park
  • vehicle emissions standards, and enforcement
  • “Día sin coche” (Day without a car) policy for all but the newest vehicles
  • improvements to public transport, such as introducing Metrobus; starting in 2011, taxi owners have incentives to use hybrid or electric vehicles
  • on-going, effective monitoring of air quality since the mid 1980s
The IMECA scale for urban air quality

The IMECA scale for urban air quality

Air quality still exceeds environmental norms in Mexico City many days each year, but far fewer than during the late 1980s and early 1990s when air pollution was at its peak. Even low-level ozone measurements are showing improvement. Ironically, ozone in the lower atmosphere rose immediately after the introduction of a new unleaded gasoline, designed to  ensure that the major source of brain-damaging lead pollution was removed. The new gasoline, it emerged, simply traded one serious pollutant for another.

Latest pollution values for Mexico City.

Mexico’s other big cities still face enormous challenges with regards to air pollution. Monterrey’s air regularly has very high concentrations of microparticulates (PM10); the levels now exceed Mexico City’s peak readings from twenty years ago.  The air in Guadalajara is improving, but not as rapidly as in Mexico City.

Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico examines the trends in air quality (ozone, microparticulates and carbon monoxide) for Mexico’s three largest cities and also asks whether the air pollution from maquiladora plants in Ciudad Juárez raises public health issues.

Ask your library to buy a copy of this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography today! Better yet, order your own copy…

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