Air Quality in Mexico City

by | Oct 24, 2001

Flying into Mexico City, one cannot help but note its heavy air pollution. Mexico City suffers from air pollution as severe as in any major city in the world. Now, with the Project for the Design of an Integrated Strategy for Air Quality Management in Mexico City Valley 2001-2010, Harvard University has involved itself in assessing the problem and trying to figure out solutions.

The interdisciplinary and interuniversity project was begun by Massachusetts Institute of Technology Nobel Laureate Mario Molina in early 2000. It involved scientists and engineers from several Mexican institutions, MIT, and Harvard. In particular, a sector of the Harvard School of Public Health, the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, took responsibility for assessing health risks posed by current and anticipated levels of air pollution in Mexico City, and for estimating the economic benefits of the improvements in health likely to result from improvement in cost-effectiveness of cleaning Mexico City’s air quality.

The research team has worked with Mexican policy makers to begin to develop strategies for reducing health risks. Collaborating with such counterparts as the Metropolitan Environmental Commission and the Environmental Trust Fund of Mexico City, the group is working toward development of a ten-year plan for improving air quality in Mexico City.

The first phase of the project was recently completed. The Harvard team recommended that greater emphasis be given to control of emissions of inhalable particles and that efforts continue to reduce ozone levels. A second phase of the project is currently underway which will involve field studies in the valuation of health benefits; efforts to better characterize health risks and current levels of uncertainty in such estimates; and analysis of the likely benefits of additional research on exposure to and health effects caused by exposure to air pollution in Mexico City.

Fall 2001, Volume I, Number 1

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