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Mexico City air quality rated ‘extremely bad’

Environmental contingency declared for first time in 14 years

For the first time in 14 years, an environmental contingency has been declared in Mexico City and its metropolitan area due to poor air quality resulting from a high concentration of pollutants.

At 4 pm yesterday the Environmental Commission of the Megalopolis (Came) detected pollution levels of 194 points on the Imeca index, which triggered a full environmental contingency, phase 1, characterized by “extremely bad” air quality.

An hour later, the concentration had leaped to 203 points.

Imeca (Metropolitan Air Quality Index) is the reference index for pollution levels tailored specifically for Mexico City, and is intended to inform residents of pollution levels.

The “extraordinary” concentrations of pollutants in the air are a result of automobile and industry emissions paired with a lack of winds and an atmospheric thermal inversion, explained Came.

Commissioner Martín Gutiérrez Lacayo, head of the agency, has announced he will be analyzing precautionary measures along with the administrations of the states of México, Mexico City, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Morelos and Hidalgo, all part of the metropolitan area. Those measures could include restricting the use of vehicles with high emissions and industrial activities.

If the Imeca index reaches 230 points, the second phase of the environmental contingency will be activated. That means further vehicular restrictions and warnings to citizens to abstain from spending time outdoors, along with the suspension of government services, schools, cultural centers, museums, parks and public sports centers.

The last time the metropolitan area experienced a phase two environmental contingency was in December 1992 and lasted three days. The environmental alert reached the same level twice that year, in February and March.

Mexico City mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera said the high concentration of pollutants did not originate in his city but in the neighboring State of México municipalities of Naucalpan and Aragón.

Mancera warned that the fight against pollution is “everybody’s job: Mexico City, the States of México and Hidalgo . . .”

Source: Excélsior (sp)

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