Life goes on under cloud of smog in Mexico City
Scientists say breathing the heavily polluted air in Mexico City these days is like smoking somewhere between a quarter- and a half-pack of cigarettes a day. But that has not stopped Oscar Chong from going out for his daily workout, despite four days of warnings from the authorities to avoid strenuous physical activity outside.
“I’m addicted to exercise. If I don’t work out on a daily basis, I don’t feel well. It actually helps release my creativity, among many other things. If I just stayed home, I’d be staring at the walls, staring at my computer screen, and ideas are never born that way,” Chong, a graphic designer, told AFP. The trim 51-year-old was taking a break from his interval workout in the capital’s largest park, the Bosque de Chapulte - pec -- which the authorities actually closed at one point this week, to hammer home the message that running or cycling in the middle of an air pollution alert was not a good idea.
The sprawling city -- a metropolitan area of more than 20 million people -- has been blanketed in a thick cloud of smog since last weekend. Authorities blame the problem on dozens of wildfires that have broken out across central Mexico in recent weeks, and the lack of wind or rain to disperse the resulting particles. However, experts agree the city’s chronic pollution problems are also at fault. Mexico City is prone to air pollution, both because of the mountains that surround it -- trapping smog overhead -- and its more than five million cars.
But the wildfires have undoubtedly made matters worse. They have sent the levels of PM2.5 soaring -- tiny particles produced by any fire that are the deadliest air pollutant. Authorities declared a pollution alert from Tuesday to Friday, after the micro-particle level hit 158 micrograms per cubic meter. That is the equivalent of smoking more than seven cigarettes a day, according to a widely cited study by US doctors Richard and Elizabeth Muller. every age group.”