Smog in Mexico City has finally resulted in a ban of cars. Beginning April 5 to June 30, private and federal vehicles will be prohibited from driving in the city one day a week and on one Saturday a month. Exceptions to the ban include hybrid and electric cars, public service and transport vehicles, and school buses.
The temporary ban of cars on Mexico City’s roads comes after smog levels were so high two weeks ago that it prompted a level 1 alert. As ABC News reports on March 30, “Officials have been meeting to consider anti-pollution measures since a Phase 1 emergency due to high ozone levels — the first since 2005 — was declared two weeks ago, when warm temperatures and still air left pollution trapped in Mexico City’s volcano-ringed valley.”
Most of the smog in Mexico City is caused by cars and the fact that the amazing city is surrounded by volcanoes makes it especially vulnerable for air pollution problems. Until summer rains will help to clear out the air in June, the car ban will stay in place.
During the past decades, the Mexican government and environmentalists have been trying to get a handle on the smog problem in one of the world’s largest cities with a population of about 20 million and 10 million cars. But actually, nothing much has changed in regard to the city’s air pollution problem:
“When we lived in Cuernavaca, which is about an hour south of Mexico City, in 1986, we used to visit Mexico’s capital on the weekend. Spending our weekends in the city was amazing. Mexico’s capital is located in the Valley of Mexico, a large valley in the high plateaus at the center of Mexico at an altitude of 7,350 feet (2,240 meters), and seeing the majestic volcanoes was inspiring. Our hotel, which was a classic Spanish-style building near the Zocalo, was like travelling back in time. Walking through the streets of Mexico City meant when looking down, you could travel into Aztec time, and looking up, you could admire the Spanish style buildings. But on some weekends, all we could do – was leave. The air pollution was so horrific that our eyes would tear so badly that we couldn’t see and breathing difficulties made it impossible to stay.”
“Upon returning to Cuernavaca, we often discussed the smog and car pollution topic with our Mexican friends. When we asked them why there is still so much exhaust in the air despite any smog inspections, our friends told us that the issue was often taken care of by paying a ‘mordida’ of a few dollars to a smog inspection worker, and the car would pass.”
The most recent smog alert in Mexico City was issued when the pollution index passed 200, which is double the acceptable level. In March 1992, the record level was 398.
Mexico City’s smog level on Thursday, March 31, is at 70, according to real-time information provided by Air Pollution in the World: Real time Air Quality map:
The below Air Quality Index (AQI) is an index for reporting daily air quality. It reports how clean or polluted the air is and what associated health effects might be a concern. The AQI focuses on health effects one may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air.
0 – 50 Good: Air quality is considered satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no risk.
51 -100 Moderate: Air quality is acceptable; however, for some pollutants there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people who are unusually sensitive to air pollution. Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.
101-150 Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups: Members of sensitive groups may experience health effects. The general public is not likely to be affected. Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.
151-200 Unhealthy: Everyone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should avoid prolonged outdoor exertion; everyone else, especially children, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.
201-300 Very Unhealthy: Health warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected. Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should avoid all outdoor exertion; everyone else, especially children, should limit outdoor exertion.
300+ Hazardous Health Alert: Everyone may experience more serious health effects. Everyone should avoid all outdoor exertion.
While the smog level in Mexico City is of no concern, at least not as of today, it is shocking to take a look at the real-time air pollution world map. Tieling, a northeastern Province in China shows a pollution level of 999, other parts of China and India show AQI levels in the 400s, and Istanbul, Turkey is at 450. In comparison to Mexico City’s smog level of 70, Plumas in California shows an outrageous smog level of 488 – the highest in the United States.
To find out how the air pollution or smog level of your city compares to Mexico City or any other parts in the world, simply type in the name of your town under AQI’s world map.