|1||Santa Anita, Lima|
|2||Villa Maria del Triunfo, Lima|
|4||San Juan de Lurigancho, Lima|
|5||El Tambo, Junin|
|9||La Merced, Junin|
(local time)SEE WORLD AQI RANKING
|4||Vilque Chico, Puno|
|6||Inapari, Madre de Dios|
|8||Tambopata, Madre de Dios|
|9||Iberia, Madre de Dios|
|10||Puerto Maldonado, Madre de Dios|
(local time)SEE WORLD AQI RANKING
Peru is a country located in the western region of south America, also known officiallyas the Republic of Peru. It is bordered by other south American countries suchas Brazil, Bolivia and Chile. The country covers some 1.28 million km2,making it the 19th largest country in the world, as well as beinghome to approximately 32.8 million people.
Looking at the quality of its air, Peru came in with a yearly average of 23.28 μg/m³ over2019, in regards to the amount of PM2.5 in the air. PM2.5 refers to particulatematter that is 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter, which is around 3% thewidth of an average human hair. Due to its microscopic size, it is extremelydetrimental to human health when respired, and as such is a major componentused in calculating overall pollution levels, or US AQI.
This 2019 reading of 23.28 μg/m³ put Peru into the ‘moderate’ pollution bracket, a groupwhich requires a reading of any number between 12.1 to 35.4 μg/m³ to be classedas such, putting Peru into the mid-range of this rating. 23.28 μg/m³ was alsoenough to put it into 33rd place out of all the most pollutedcountries ranked worldwide, coming in just behind Serbia and Kosovo, with theirown readings of 23.30 μg/m³ and 23.50 μg/m³ putting them in 32nd and31st place respectively.
Peru, and many countries in South America have lots of pollution and environment relatedissues weighing heavily over them, particularly regarding deforestation butalso that of water and air contamination.
Looking at the cities registered in Peru, particularly that of the capital city Lima,whilst they are not subject to the same catastrophic spikes in PM2.5 levelsthat cities such as Lahore in Pakistan (with PM2.5 readings as high as 199.1 μg/m³being recorded in January of 2019), they certainly have their own elevatedlevels of pollution that cause a large number of issues for its manyinhabitants as well as the ecosystem and climate.
Lima came in with a yearly average of 23.7 μg/m³, putting it also in the moderate ratingbracket, as well as being the 682nd most polluted city in the world.It had some of its months come in with elevated readings, with some going as high as 34.2 μg/m³ taken in September 2019.
Looking at another city in Peru, Chupaca, it came in with some of the cleaner readingsavailable in the country, being more indicative of how the air quality would bein some of the more provincial areas, with its huge number of trees, hills andlack of human activity giving rise to a much cleaner quality of air. Chupacahad 6 months out of its 2019 listing come in within the World HealthOrganizations target bracket of 0 to 10 μg/m³, with February coming in at 5.1 μg/m³,a very respectable reading and the cleanest month recorded in the entire country during 2019.
Despite the cleanliness of Chupaca’s air, its yearly average was still 14.8 μg/m³, in themoderate bracket once again, because of pollution spikes that occurred in themiddle the year, with months such as June coming in at 20.5 μg/m³, and Augustat 32 μg/m³, displaying that even though the city has a very desirable qualityof air, there are still highly polluted months seeing large rises in PM2.5, causedby a number of different sources, all of which lead to Peru having a worser quality of air.
Air pollution in Peru finds itself with several different sources, some more pertinent thanothers, although steps are being taken towards reducing these problems, whichwill be discussed in more depth later on. The main causes would includevehicular emissions, with the smoke and fumes coming from the many cars andmotorbikes, as well as heavy duty vehicles such as trucks, lorries and busesmoving up and down the city, particularly in the capital city.
These vehicles are often very old aged, with engines that produce far more pollutionthat a newer and more efficient counterpart would. To compound the issuefurther, due to lack of regulations, oftentimes much lower quality fuels areused, as well as fossil fuels such as diesel. Both diesel as well as lowerquality fuel can put out much more smoke and haze into the atmosphere, causingincreased ambient year-round readings to occur. In many countries, initiativesto phase out the use of these ancient vehicles have been implemented, and go along way in helping to reduce the pollutive output from the vehicular sector,although due to economic reasons this may be easier said than done for the time being in Peru.
Other sources of pollution include the burning of wood for use in homes and small businesses,typically cooking and other similar activities. When practiced on a small scale,the effect on the air quality is minimal, but when done by hundreds ofthousands of people, the smoke can accumulate to the point where it has avisible effect on the population, with workers and people who have to spendtime in highly polluted areas being aware about the health risks they face.
Other causes that contribute to pollution levels, more prominent in the capital city orareas that are undergoing rapid development or urbanization, would be industrialactivity. This could be anything from factory emissions, the use of heavyequipment, construction sites and road repairs, all of which can contributeheavily to the amount of fine particulate matter in the air.
Slash and burn farming would also be an ongoing danger, which can have knock on effectsthat lead to soil erosion in affected areas, besides polluting the atmosphere.Other open burn sources include the setting alight of rubbish piles or refuse, moreprominent in low income or impoverished areas that have poor waste management.
These open burn piles, besides containing organic wastes, can also contain synthetic andmanmade materials such as rubber and plastic, or even metals, the burning ofwhich would release even more pollutants into the air. To reiterate, the mostdiscussed forms of air pollution that afflict Peru are vehicular and factory emissions.
Observing the data from the last few years, it becomes apparent that Peru has made someimprovements in the levels of air pollution occurring. There are certaininitiatives that have been put forth that may be contributing on a small-scalelevel, particularly to people that live in certain areas of high pollution andparticulate matter. One of these is the use of ‘super tree’ technology,essentially a giant billboard that draws in large volumes of dirty air, andusing thermodynamic pressure manages to force these pollutive gases andparticulate matter into water, whereby it is removed entirely from the air andexpelled, pumping out clean air in the process.
Initiatives such as these have been hailed as huge successes, mainly due to thequantifiable nature of actually being able to see the process take place, aswell as functioning very well in Lima’s urban geography, one that islandlocked, sees little rain, but also has a high level of humidity thusenabling the supertree technology to work efficiently.
Looking at the available data and numbers, Peru came in with a PM2.5 reading of 28 μg/m³in 2018, and was followed by a fairly considerable improvement with a readingof 23.28 μg/m³. Something that must be taken into consideration when observingthis improvement is to whether it is actually due to real changes in airquality, or the addition of cleaner cities such as Chupaca into the country’sregistry, which then in turn would lower the overall average. However, anychange in the overall pollution averages in a step in the right direction, with all factors considered.
The same can be said of the capital city. Lima came in with a 2017 reading of 27.7 μg/m³,followed by a 2018 reading of 28 μg/m³. In 2019 a considerable improvement to23/7 μg/m³ was recorded as its yearly average. This shows that the air qualityin Peru, and certainly the capital, may be making vital steps in the right direction.
With a large amount of its pollution arising from vehicles, factory emissions, slash andburn farming, open burning of refuse and garbage, as well as construction sitesand poorly maintained roads or areas that suffer from soil erosion, the varietyof pollutants found in the air in Peru would be fairly diverse.
The burning of fossil fuels as well as organic matter, or rather the ‘incompletecombustion’ of both can lead to the formation of materials such as black carbonand volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). They are known as volatile due to theirchemical properties of converting into gaseous form under very low temperatureconditions, meaning that in most environments they would be in their gas form, and thus easier to respire.
Some examples of VOC’s are benzene, formaldehyde, methylene chloride, ethylene glycol andtoluene, all of which have highly detrimental effects on human health, withshort term problems such as mucosal membrane irritation (eyes, nose andthroat), aggravated asthma attacks, dizziness and nausea all being present,which can drastically reduce the quality of a person’s life.
However, when the long-term effects are examined, they become far more serious as well asterminal, with instances of cancers, hepatic and renal system failure (liverand kidney damage), as well as permanent negative changes to the nervoussystem, that can lead to a number of irreversible life changing problems.
Black carbon, as mentioned, is also a by product of fossil fuel combustion, as well as beingproduced by the burning of organic matter such as wood or plants. It is a majorcomponent of soot and considered a carcinogen, as well as being extremely smallin size and thus able to not only enter into the lungs and cause damage or heighteninstances of cancer, but also cross over into the blood stream and causefurther damage to the heart or blood vessels, as well as other organs.
Vehicle emissions release large amounts of chemicals such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2)and sulfur dioxide (SO2), with nitrogen dioxide being very prominentin its release from vehicle engines, with large amounts in the atmosphere oftencorrelating directly with a higher volume of traffic.
Poorly maintained construction sites can release large amounts of PM2.5 and PM10, withheavy piles of uncovered rubble combined with wind being a recipe for disaster,sweeping vast amounts of finely ground gravel, silica, micro plastics and evenmetals such as lead and mercury into the air.
To finish with the list of pollutants, other possible ones that can be found in the airfrom other sources such as slash and burn farming, as well as open burning ofrubbish piles, can be chemical compounds and materials such as theaforementioned black carbon and VOC’s, as well as others such as carbonmonoxide (CO), polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, and in the cases wherematerials such as plastic are burnt, other more noxious chemicals such asfurans, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls.
These can have a catastrophic effect on vegetation and plant life, going beyond thehealth effects on humans. Thus, when pollution levels in Peru are high in anygiven area, with the cause of it being considered, any of these chemicals orparticle matters may find themselves in the air, and as such seriouspreventative measures should be taken in order to avoid their respiration, suchas the wearing of fine particle filtering masks or avoiding outdoor activities.
With the main sources of pollution being from vehicles, more stringent rules could beintroduced that target offending causes, with a crackdown on high fume andsmoke emitting heavy duty trucks and lorries being of chief importance, due totheir prevalence in the transportation of goods in and out of major cities.
The removal of these, or at the least introduction of fines and charges for vehicles that break thepollution output or age limit could be introduced, which would go a long way inputting a dent in the year-round pollution levels. Others would be the crackingdown on open fires or slash and burn farming practices, as well as introducingthe same fines and charges to factories, industrial sites or private businessesthat cause the surrounding atmosphere to exceed safe levels of pollution. Withthese steps in place, Peru may see further improvements in its air quality andlower counts of death and illnesses associated with pollution.
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