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  • A panoramic view of high air pollution in Santiago de Chile, Chile, Jun. 21, 2015.

    A panoramic view of high air pollution in Santiago de Chile, Chile, Jun. 21, 2015. | Photo: EFE

Published 6 March 2019

The 2018 World Air Quality Report reveals that Chile has 34 of the 46 most air-polluted South American cities.

On Feb. 5 AirVisual and Greenpeace published the 2018 World Air Quality Report, research built with data from more than 3,000 cities, which points out that Chile has nine of the ten South American cities with the worst air quality.

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According to the global air quality ranking, the most polluted Chilean cities are, in descending order, Padre Las Casas, Osorno, Coyhaique, Valdivia, Temuco, Santiago, Linares, Rancagua and Puerto Montt. In South America, Lima, the capital of Peru, is in the top 10 of the most polluted cities, one place after Santiago de Chile.

In order to make comparisons among cities, AirVisual established six air quality categories: good, moderate, unhealthy for sensitive groups, unhealthy, very unhealthy and dangerous.

These categories were defined considering the presence of PM 2.5 particles, that is, materials in suspension of fewer than 2.5 microns which come from diesel vehicles and causes very serious affectations to human health due to their capacity to penetrate into the respiratory tract.

"The latest scientific work suggests that this type of pollution, and particularly particles from urban traffic, is associated with increases in the exposed population's morbidity and mortality rates, as well as with the development of asthma and allergies among children," Ecologists at Action, a network of grassroots movements, recalled and explained that the PM 2.5 particles have a size that "makes them 100% breathable as they travel deep into the lungs, penetrating the respiratory system and depositing in the pulmonary alveoli. They can even reach the bloodstream."

In the world's most air-polluted cities ranking, Chile currently occupies the 26th place because Padre Las Casas and Osorno are the most unhealthy Chilean cities for sensitive social groups.

"Although Padre Las Casas appears as the most polluted Chilean city, its bad conditions are concentrated in the winter season. This is a characteristic contrary to the tendency of Santiago -a city which occupies the 20th place among the 62 most polluted capitals in the world- where its pollution levels move from moderate to very bad throughout the year," Estefania Gonzalez, Greenpeace's campaign area coordinator, explained, according to 24 Horas, a local media.

The diagnosis of the Chilean environmental situation gets worse when considering all the South American cities analyzed. In this region, 34 of the 46 most polluted cities are Chilean. Worldwide, however, 7 of the 10 most polluted cities are in India.

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