Dr. Alfonso Martínez Muñoz
Executive Director of the OCCAMM
At the Citizen Observatory of Air Quality of the Metropolitan Area of Monterrey (OCCAMM) (https://www.facebook.com/ObservatoriodelaireMty/), we intend to influence so that we have a less polluting transport, a good housing policy that reduces horizontal growth, homes with energy efficiency, energy generation and clean industry, and better management of municipal waste thus preventing the burning of garbage. Through these modifications it will be possible to reduce the emissions of pollutants to the atmosphere. To modify these policies it is necessary to assess and consider the negative impacts (to health, environmental, social and economic) that current policies have. For example, how much is the horizontal growth of the metropolis contributing to air pollution, which increases the need for new buses among other factors? Or what are the economic and social effects that this policy has for those who live in the remote areas? Or for the whole community? If these impacts are not considering at the time of the new decisions, there is a risk that a given policy or investment will end up having more negative impacts than positive impacts on society.
Air pollution has major negative impacts on public health. Obviously the affectations to the public health end up being at the same time economic affectations, either for the individuals or the affected families, or for the health system or for the productive system. So far in the case of air pollution in our state has worked only in care medicine (this is serving the sick), and not in measures related to the prevention of the occurrence of the affectations; which is
Affectations of the Pollution
In Mexico, scientific research on the effects of air pollution on public health and on the economy is very scarce. In the Metropolitan Area of Monterrey, there have been no investigations related to the impact on public health of air pollution.
In 2005, researchers from the Technological Institute and Higher Education of Monterrey (ITESM) estimated that expenses for loss of productivity and health impacts of around 895 to 1,346 million dollars per year could be avoided if the 10% reduction were annual average concentration of particles smaller than 10 microns in the Metropolitan Area of Monterrey. (1)
Dr. Horacio Riojas and the work team of the National Institute of Public Health carried out a study where they calculated for the year 2010 around 2,700 premature deaths caused by the effect of air pollution in the Metropolitan Area of Monterrey (Dr. Horacio Riojas, personal communication, June 19th, 2018).
In Guadalajara, Jalisco, a significant correlation was found between the increase in the concentrations of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, with the increase in monthly consultations of children under five years of age who had respiratory infections. (2)
In Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, an investigation was carried out that sought to determine if there was a positive association between the levels of particles smaller than ten microns (PM 10) and ozone with the number of consultations in the emergency department for respiratory diseases. Regarding upper respiratory diseases, an increase of 2.95% was found for each increase of 20 micrograms per cubic meter of air of PM 10. In addition, a positive association was found in general between the number of asthma consultations and respiratory diseases with the increase in the concentration of particles less than ten microns. Finally, a synergistic effect between ozone and PM10 was determined. (3)
A recent investigation carried out with millions of people who had lived from 76 to 85 years old in one of the 50 capital cities of the United States of American determined that for every microgram of increase in the concentration of particles smaller than 2.5 microns in the annual average of the air of these cities, the percentage of people with a diagnosis of dementia at 85 was increased by 1.02% (2). The maximum levels of annual averages of particles smaller than 2.5 microns recorded in this investigation were close to 13 micrograms per cubic meter of air. In the Metropolitan Area of Monterrey, the annual average of particles smaller than 2.5 microns in 2015 according to the last report of the Institute of Ecology and Climate Change that includes this data was 26 micrograms of PM 2.5 per cubic meter of air (3). If the relation (contamination by PM2.5 / dementia) that was found in the American research remained constant and applied in the Metropolitan Area of Monterrey, we would have about 20% more cases of dementia at 85 years than any other capital city of the United States. Of course, most cases of dementia are not diagnosed here, which is why, paradoxically, in statistics we can be better. The American research concluded that the costs associated with poor economic decisions made by people diagnosed with dementia at 85 years old caused by the inhalation of particles smaller than 2.5 microns in the last 10 years, amounted to 150 billion dollars per year. These results showed that the United States needed to tighten the policy of reducing air pollution.
Other recent research that evaluated more than 146,000 people in the State of Utah in the US linked the peaks of particle contamination to 2.5 microns with a significant increase in the incidence of acute diseases in the lower respiratory tract of people from all ages (4). Many of the cases of respiratory infections suffered by children and adults in the Metropolitan Area of Monterrey are probably also explained by air pollution.
Modifying the policies that have established the way in which the Metropolitan Area of Monterrey has been developing, and which have caused, among other negative impacts, the high air pollution, is not an easy task. It is forced that these negative impacts on health and the economy and include in the discussions of the new projects of another will be followed by the community assuming the costs of externalities
- Villa, V., Andara, G. G, Reyna, R. and Mejía, G. (2008). Economic benefits of PM10 reduction in the MMA. Proceedings of the A&WMA’s 101th Annual Conference and Exhibition. Portland, Oregon. June 24–27.
- Ramirez-Sanchez, Hermes Ulises; Andrade-Garcia, María Dolores; Gonzalez-Castañeda, Miguel Ernesto , Celis-De La Rosa, Alfredo de Jesús. (2006). Contaminantes atmosféricos y su correlación con infecciones agudas de las vías respiratorias en niños de Guadalajara, Jalisco. Salud pública Méx, vol.48, n.5, pp.385-394. ISSN 0036-3634.
- Hernández, Leticia; Téllez, Martha Ma.; Sanin, Luz Elena; Lacasaña, Marina; Campos, Armando; Romieu, Isabelle. (2000). Relación entre consultas a urgencias por enfermedad respiratoria y contaminación atmosférica en Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua Salud Pública de México, vol. 42, núm. 4, julio-agos, 2000 Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública Cuernavaca, México.
- Bishop K. C., Ketcham J.O. Kuminoff N.Y. (2018). Hazed and confused: The effects of air pollution on dementia. NBER, Working papers series. 65pp.
- Informe Nacional de Calidad del Aire 2015, México (2016) Instituto Nacional de Ecología y Cambio Climático, 174 pp.
- Horne et al. (2018). Short term elevation of fine particulate matter air pollution and acute lower respiratory infection. American Journal of Respiratory and Critic Care Medicine Vol. 198. No. 6. 39pp.