National Campaign for Firework Safety
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Firework Pollution

August 27 2001, Ecology Department addresses air pollution, by Eva Merkel and Sue Beere

Air contamination is becoming an increasing problem in San Miguel, a 500-year-old town never designed for the heavy vehicular traffic now passing through its narrow streets. The city has room for about 3,000 vehicles to circulate. This year, more than 15,000 were registered at the Oficina de Rentas. Since we have no heavy industry, most air pollution in San Miguel is caused by vehicles. It is estimated that roughly half of the 15,000 vehicles are more than ten years old.

About 15 years ago, the Mexican government began to heed local and international alarms about air pollution. It phased out leaded gasoline and introduced vehicle emission standards. The next year San Miguel adopted schedules for twice-yearly emission tests.

There is reason to believe that anti-pollution measures are effective. In Mexico City, where similar environmental measures were taken, the pollution index dropped from 210 points in 1991, to 104 this year. But this is still, on the average, double that of most polluted U.S. cities.

At present however, San Miguel has no equipment to reliably measure the amount of pollution in the air, says Arturo Morales, Director of the Ecology Department. The department would like to establish an
estación de monitoreo atmosférico (atmospheric monitoring system), so that reliable data can be obtained and steps taken to improve the situation, says Morales. He has proposed to the City Council the formation of a Patronato, to include the Ecology Department and various local non-profit organizations, such as Audubon, Save the Laja, FAI, CASA, Charco del Ingenio and interested citizens. This Patronato would be in charge of installing and managing the station, as required by law. The station would be in the busiest part of town, probably in the Insurgents-Reloj-Mesones area.

It is difficult to give any information as to whether the existing air pollution presents a health risk or not, since it has never been adequately measured, says Morales, and, he added, the upcoming Fiestas Patrias will certainly add to the contamination, since it is known that
polvora de cuetes (firework powder) is more polluting than vehicle exhaust. In Valle del Maiz, where many fireworks will be exploded during the Fiestas, the effect of pollution is aggravated because the Valle is a low-lying area, and the cold September air adds to the inversion effect-cold layers of air trap the contaminated air below

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