Saturday, April 26, 2014

Only 21,000 Avoidable Deaths...

Belching diesel smoke on Ave. Septima.
According to a study published by the Universidad Nacional, Bogotá could prevent more than 21,000 premature deaths between now and 2020 just by bringing its atmospheric concentrations of tiny particles called PM10 down to 50 micrograms per cubic meter, a level considered acceptable by the World Health Organization.

Perhaps the possibility of preventing tens of thousands of deaths will motivate officials to enforce environmental laws? No. That's unthinkable.

Will the prospect of tens of thousands of unnecessary, preventable deaths make air pollution as important as the Millionarios' win-loss record or the price of gasoline? Impossible!

Perhaps this mass killing will push Justin Bieber and George Clooney out of the headlines? Don't even think about it!

Would it be different if they were 25,000 deaths? 30,000? How many people must die?

Sooting up the air near the Universidad Nacional.
Those PM10 particles are dangerous just because their tiny size enables them to get stuck in your lungs and other parts.

According to the National University study, cleaning the air would save the lives of 21,000 adults and 900 children young than five, as well as prevent thousands of hospitalizations, emergency room visits and avoid more than 30,000 cases of acute respiratory disease.

A cement truck sends up a blast of smoke on
Ave. Septima, near Parque de la Independencia.
And Bogotá surely could clean up its air. But that would mean actually enforcing emissions laws on cars, buses, trucks and factories - something officials prefer not to do. Bogotá announced recently that Ave. Septima would become a 'green corridor' (not the first time they've promised that) thanks to low-emissions flex buses and the withdrawal of some of those ancient 'rolling chimneys' from the avenue. A look at La Septima, however, reveals little more than those chimneys, usually trapped in congestion. And, even if the city does remove some of the old smoke belchers from this iconic avenue, will they not just shift to another part of the city? And have environmental officials forgotten that air pollution respects no boundaries?

What kind of society just stands by while tens of thousands of people die and many more suffer needlessly? Who is responsible?  The companies which don't want to hurt their profits cleaning up their machines? Or the environmental officials don't bother to enforce the laws? Or the public which suffers passively? Maybe all of them.
A generator belches smoke on Plaza Bolivar during the memorial ceremony for writer Gabriel Garcia Márquez.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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