A smoggy day in Mexico City. A smoggy day in Mexico City.

Mexico City’s smog not only about traffic

Chemical engineer says it's about dog poop and factories, too

Walking a dog for exercise might be good for one’s health but canine excrement left behind on the side of the road has an opposite effect on well-being, according to an expert.

Carlos Álvarez, a chemical engineer at the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) claims that almost 50,000 factory smokestacks in the megalopolis, as well as 250,000 tonnes of dog feces that are left annually on public roads, contribute significantly to Mexico City’s air pollution problems.

An environmental contingency due to poor air quality in the metropolitan area of the capital was reactivated yesterday, triggering a further restriction of vehicles on the city’s streets, but Álvarez believes that the measure is an inadequate response to the problem.

While local authorities estimate that greater enforcement of the “Hoy No Circula” (No Circulation Today) program will remove around 1.5 million cars from the roads daily,  Álvarez believes that traffic is not the main cause of the problem.

“Federal and local governments have made a mistake with this practice. They have used a strategy that works like an aspirin. To me, stopping cars seems like just giving a pill to someone who is dying of cancer. That’s why I insist that the measure has failed.”

In an interview with the newspaper El Universal, Álvarez said that there is no political or industrial will to solve the problem and claims that the length of the contingency is evidence that measures taken by the government are not enough.

He also laments that authorities only monitor five contaminants when in reality there are many other “volatile organic compounds that generate pollution.”

Álvarez cites 5 million gas stoves, 5 million boilers, an oil refinery at Tula, Hidalgo, and Mexico City’s International Airport as additional causes of contaminated air.

The engineer, who is also the president of an environmental organization, said that he has been urging government to seek different solutions such as electric vehicle charging stations and renewable energy sources for 25 years.

Álvarez recalled that the city’s former head of government, Manuel Camacho Solís, told him 25 years ago that those kinds of measures were “50 years away,” and he rues what could have been.

“What would have happened in 1992 if . . . Solís had called on business to make a 25-year plan and told them either they go or they change to alternative technologies such as solar, wind or hydro power. It’s more costly to be poisoning everyone in the Valley of Mexico. We can’t let economic interest prevail over everybody’s health.”

The Environmental Commission of the Megalopolis (Came) has maintained the first phase of the contingency for most of the past nine days as air pollution has exceeded 150 points on the Metropolitan Air Quality Index (Imeca).

However, it was lifted for 16 hours but then reactivated as high levels of pollution were recorded in two boroughs.

In a press conference, Came chief Martín Gutiérrez stressed that while pollution levels are not “optimal” there is no “environmental alert” at this stage.

He added that guidelines became stricter in 2014 in accordance with World Health Organization standards and that a contingency would only have been activated on one day last week under the previous norms.

Mexico City has long been plagued by severe smog and it is a serious public health concern for authorities and citizens alike.

Earlier this year it was reported that breathing the air of Mexico City was the equivalent of smoking 40 cigarettes a day on the 212 days in 2016 when air quality was bad.

Source:  El Universal (sp), Milenio (sp)

Reader forum

The forum is available to logged-in subscribers only.