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Mexico's changing map of pollution

What are the four cities with the greatest air pollution in Mexico? If you guessed Mexico City as one of them, you’d be wrong.

I just got back from a news conference by the Mexican Institute of Competitiveness, a think tank, and their scholars have taken public data and extrapolated costs related to air pollution.

By far, the city with the worst air pollution in Mexico is Mexicali, an industrial city across from Calexico, California. According to the think tank, 30 people die prematurely a year in the city from effects of air pollution, and 74 out of 100,000 people are hospitalized a year because of its effects. Here's a link to their Spanish-language presentation.

Following Mexicali are (surprisingly!) Cuernavaca, then Monterrey and Tijuana. Cuernavaca is often called the “garden city” for its delightful climate. It’s a resort located over a small mountain range from the capital. Monterrey is a big industrial hub, with steel, glass, cement and autoparts industries, so no surprise that they’d have problems. Tijuana also has a lot of industry.

Mexico City comes in fifth place but its level of suspended particulates smaller than 10 microns was less than a third of Mexicali. I’ve written about Mexico City’s improving air quality. It’s no longer jokingly referred to as Mexsicko City.

The study only measured particulates, not ozone of sulphur. So it has some drawbacks. But if you want to avoid the yuck factor, you might stay away from Mexicali.


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This blog is written by Tim Johnson, the Mexico bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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