Latin America & Caribbean

Mexico City pollution: Residents urged to stay indoors

People wear face masks due to air pollution, in downtown Mexico City on May 14, 2019. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Some residents donned face masks as pollution levels rose

Officials in Mexico City have declared an environmental emergency after air pollution in the Mexican capital reached levels potentially dangerous to human health.

They urged those at particular risk to stay indoors and restricted the number of cars which can be driven in the city on Wednesday.

Smoke from nearby forest fires has contributed to the spike in pollution.

The city has been wrapped in a smoky haze for days.

Mexican photographer Santiago Arau tweeted video taken from a drone showing the extent of the pollution.

Particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometres or less, known as PM2.5, reached 158 micrograms per cubic metre of air at one measuring station on Tuesday morning, more than six times the World Health Organisation daily mean recommended limit.

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PM2.5 particles are thought to be particularly damaging because they are so small, they can penetrate the deepest parts of the lungs.

More than 21 million people live in Mexico City's metropolitan area and it was once infamous for its poor air quality. Air pollution levels dropped in the late 1990s but have again been on the rise in recent years.

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Media captionHector Ruiz is on a one-man mission to make Mexico City cleaner

The city lies in a valley and when there is little wind, the air can quickly become stagnant.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The city was covered in a yellow haze

Mexico City's environmental commission advised residents to avoid outdoor activities and Mexico's first division football league postponed a match between León and Club América, which was due to be played in the capital on Wednesday.

Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said she would consider cancelling school classes if the pollution got any worse. She said schools were already keeping their pupils indoors at break time.

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