Published: Tuesday 31 December 1996

Air pollution in this country has plagued its residents for over a decade now. in spite of the many measures initiated to tackle the problem, the World Health Organization (WHO) has ranked the air of Mexico City as the most contaminated in the world. In each of the six categories of pollution set by WHO, like ; ozone content to suspended particles, Mexico City's air has double the levels than those considered safe.

While pollution emergency is a regular feature every winter, this time the alarm bells have rung already and the season has hardly begun. According to 4 'he us- based World Resources Institute, "Of the cities for which there is sufficient data to compare, Mexico City has the worst overall air pollution." WHO maintains that humans should not inhale air with more than 100 to 120 parts per billion (PPB); but in Mexico, last year, residents breathed that level -or more for 321 days!

Last month, when the ozone readings rose above 250 PPB, nearly 400,000 pollution-related patients made a beeline to the hospitals. A continuous five-day emergency was imposed during this period which saw industries shut down. People were given two options: either to leave the town or else stay at home with their windows shut.

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