Air Pollution in Colombia.

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Air pollution has become one of the most important concerns of the local authorities of Latin- American cities. Bogotá, like as other urban centers in South America such as Sao Paulo, Mexico City and Santiago de Chile, shows significant levels of air pollution, levels that may represent a high risk for the population’s health and certainly a reduction in the quality of life of its inhabitants. Bogotá, capital of Colombia, is one of the largest cities of Latin America; with a population of around 6.5 million and an annual growth rate of 2.081 percent it is the largest urban center in Colombia; it also has the highest rates of environmental deterioration of the country.

Air pollution has increased dramatically lately, due mainly to the uncontrolled increase in the number of vehicles in the city. Although air pollution has been monitored in Bogotá since 1967, it wasn’t until 1990 that the monitoring stations were spread widely throughout the city. At that time the Secretary of Health of the District with the collaboration of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) pursued a study in order to determine the air quality of the city. This study concluded that the most important source of pollution in Bogotá was automobiles; 70% of the pollution could be attributed to cars. Another very important source of pollution was found to be bricks and battery plants, among others.

The study conducted with the support of JICA identified for the first time the composition of air pollution in Bogotá and its principal components. These were identified to be the following: Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Total Suspended Particles (TSP), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Hydrocarbons (HC), and Ozone (O3). It was estimated that 75% of the pollutants’ annual emissions correspond to Particulate Matter.

The study determined that the levels of CO, HC, SO2 and Particulate Matter were not above the limits defined as safe by the WHO. This led to JICA ‘s conclusion...
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