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Smog is double the danger for residents in south of city

Many people driving to the Guadalajara airport to catch an early morning flight express their horror at the pall of smog that always seems to hang over the southern part of the city just after sunrise. 

But spare a thought for those living amid this filthy haze. Air pollution in the metro area’s southern suburbs has hit the “mala calidad” (bad quality) mark on 62 days this year (almost every other day), according to Semadet, Jalisco’s Environmental Agency.  Readings are double those taken at any of the nine other monitoring stations in the city.

The Santa Fe station in Tlajomulco has repeatedly recorded pollution levels between 100 and 150 IMECAS, Semadet admits.  In these cases, the agency advises residents of the zone to “keep their windows closed” and “stay indoors.”  They also recommend seeing a doctor if they have trouble breathing.

IMECAs measure concentrations of ozone (O3), sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO) and particles smaller than 10 micrometers (PM10).  Hourly readings are taken in the 10 stations located in the metropolitan area. Smog alerts are issued only when average readings rise above 150 IMECAS for more than two consecutive hours. Recommendations for serious alerts (above 200 IMECAS) include restricting vehicle use to essential journeys only.  Schools may also be required to suspend classes.

Atmospheric pollution in Guadalajara, especially ozone levels, rises significantly in the dry summer months.  Fires in the nearby Primavera Forest can often exacerbate the contamination and prompt smog alerts.  The elderly, children, asthmatics and people with heart problems are particularly at risk during periods of high air pollution.

Semadet’s main plan of action to reduce the city’s smog appears to center on beefing up the car emissions testing program (verificación vehicular) and introducing cleaner city buses that do not use dirty diesel fuel.  The agency is also working to reduce the amount of pollutants emitted by industry, although data shows vehicle exhaust emissions to be the major cause of atmospheric contamination in the city.

Although air pollution is now considered worse in Guadalajara than in Mexico City, authorities here have decided not to copy the successful “no-drive day” program that was introduced for motorists in the capital in 1989.

The World Health Organization estimates that 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide were caused by air pollution in 2012.  No specific data is available for Guadalajara.

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