Mexico suffers 20,000 early deaths due to dirty air

Mexico had moved towards a cleaner-air mandate, but progress has stalled.


Members of the US Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and International Council for Clean Transportation (ICCT) as well as Mexico’s Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental (CEMDA) pushed for Mexico to update its heavy-duty vehicle emissions standards for the first time in more than two decades.

In the wake of Mexico City’s first smog alerts in 11 years, the advocates, which included the Boston-based Health Effects Institute, pushed for standards that the advocates estimated would cut harmful particulate-matter emissions by more than 95 percent. Speaking in a conference call on Tuesday, the group asked for Mexico to adopt the same truck-emissions standards as in the US and Canada.

Amanda Maxwell, the NRDC’s Latin America Project Director, noted that in recent years Mexico had made progress towards adopting new standards that would involve mandating catalysts and filters on new heavy-duty trucks, but lobbyists had caused that progress to stall. “This standard has been pending in Mexico for many months,” Maxwell said, adding that adopting such standards would be “a win-win for everybody.”

ICCT Senior Fellow Kate Blumberg noted that the new standards would boost new-truck costs by about three percent (about $5,000), but that the difference would be paid off within two years because of lower running costs due to fuel-efficiency gains.

CEMDA Public Policy Analyst Giselle Garcia referred to pollution as “a huge problem here,” while Dan Greenbaum, president of the Health Effects Institute, estimated that transportation-generated emissions cause about 20,000 premature deaths in Mexico each year. “There’s no technological reasons why Mexican citizens would have to wait any longer,” said Rich Kassel, vice president at Gladstein, Neandross & Associates (GNA), on the call.

Earlier this month, Mexico City instituted its first pollution alert in 11 years. As part of the four-day alert, officials banned more than one million vehicles from entering the city in order to cut pollution, which caused ozone levels to rise to double acceptable limits.



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