Sunday, May 5, 2013

Epidemic From the Air

Smog makes a pretty sunset over central Bogotá.

It's not AIDS, or malaria, dirty water or even smoking, all of which get well-deserved attention from the media and health experts.

Premature deaths annually across the region. 
Instead, it's the plain old air pollution which all of us suffer from on the streets, sidewalks and even the parks of Bogotá and across Latin America. A recent report by the Clean Air Institute calculates that in 2006 more than 5,000 Colombians died prematurely because of air pollution (and a Colombian expert in the field recently estimated to me that the number of premature deaths from polluted air in Bogotá alone is 11,000 annually).

That's an epidemic that kills and injures many more people than does Colombia's armed conflict - but receives almost no attention. 

Clean Air's report is pretty damning for the region, and Colombia does about as poorly as any nation.

I took this photo today of a bus in the Egipto neighborhood. 
The report shows harmful levels in Bogotá's air of sulphur dioxide, nitrous dioxide, ozone and tiny particles for which there is no safe level. Keep mind that the report's numbers are annual averages, measured by a few monitors not likely located at street level, where we often breathe and pollutant levels are highest.
Bogotá's average annual concentrations of tiny,
dangerous airborne particles violate safety levels. 
In other words, the averages disguise the fact that in many places, at many times, pollutant levels are much higher and very dangerous.

In contrast to AIDS, malaria, homicide and other scourges, air pollution's impacts are totally preventable. Bogotá could take a big step forward simply by enforcing its pollution laws, which now seem to be dead letter. 
Number of years lost, including disability.
Bogotá's average annual nitrous dioxide concentrations are just below dangerous levels - but levels on busy avenues are undoubtedly much higher. 

The region's average annual level of nitrous dioxide has declined, but remains dangerous. 

As of 2011, Bogotá had no (zero, zip, nada) nitrous dioxide monitors, according to the report. 

Yet, somehow they found some statistics for Bogotá.

A Bogotá bus poison's the air, with no fear of sanctions. 
Check out my blog on air pollution, in bad Spanish, at

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


mauricio forero l said...

Stop avoiding this dude. The same people ( Colombian people, People from Bogota ) The same people that probably are helping you with your business, The same people that you photograph and some times admired...this people are the target of this guy ( Stuart ) terrible insults and words...You should defend the people that are around you, that help you and respect you. do not be so passive.

Miguel said...

Hi Mauricio,

I believe in free speech, as long as its not slanderous or really ugly, and contributes some bit of thinking.

If Stuart's comments anger you, you can either not read them or read them and reply in a civil manner. I, unfortunately, don't have time to reply to every comment.


mauricio forero l said...

You say:
" I believe in free speech, as long as its not slanderous or really ugly, and contributes some bit of thinking"
So tell me, what is your definition of SLANDEROUS ???
I guess and, according to your total silence, when Stuart calls a bunch of kids in a university campus SCUM that is not " Slanderous " or for that matter even ugly. Please dude!!!
I think that you like to contradict yourself, or that the definition of some words in your dictionary are not very clear.

Miguel said...

I'm sure you're right Mauricio that I'm contradictory, but I do try.


Stuart Oswald said...

Slanderous: Both untrue and harmful to a reputation.
Scum: Extraneous matter or impurities risen to or formed on the surface of a liquid often as a foul filmy covering.