Buses are a leading cause of air pollution in the Centro. Photo: La Jornada Maya

Mérida, Yucatán — Air in the city’s Historic Center is the most polluted in ​​the city, with heavy-metal levels up to five times worse than other neighborhoods, said UNAM researcher María del Carmen Delgado Carranza.

Delgado Carranza spoke at a conference that shared information on centros históricos in Mérida, Guadalajara, Morelia and San Luis Potosí.

“According to WHO (the World Health Organization), 7 million people die every year from diseases caused by the environment. In Mexico City, 27,000 people die every year due to environmental contamination, especially due to diseases in the respiratory tract,” added Delgado Carranza.

Mérida’s center has lead levels ranging from 1 to 185, and zinc, from 1 to 800. The maximum levels approved by Canadas Ministry of Environment are 140 and 200, respectively.

Mexico City’s air was found the most polluted, with traces of lead, zinc and copper. Guadalajara is the least polluted historic urban area.

Heavy metals in urban dust can be attributed to natural causes, such as volcanic eruptions, or by industrial sources such as factories or motor vehicles.

“The historic centers of all cities require daily sweeping systems of streets and sidewalks, which will benefit the health of its inhabitants,” she said.

UNAM’s study results will be incorporated into the conservation management plans maintained by each city.

The director of UNAM’s Program of Studies on the City, Javier Delgado, said that it is necessary to regulate the entry of cars into the Centro.

“There is an excess of cars and it is not necessary to resort to this modality. Public transport must be more comfortable and efficient,” he said.

While Mérida’s topography would never allow for subways, the city could build trams and light rail, as well as smaller collective transport that improves on the current combis that serve commuters.

“The combis have been successful because they are fast and cheap, but they are not comfortable or safe,” he said.

He stressed the need to think about tourists, the elderly and children who walk through the Centro.

When asked what are the needs of pedestrians in historic centers, specifically in Mérida where there are floods due to rain, a lack of trees and places to take shelter from rain, he answered: “It is a problem in all cities and you have to make a very careful study of what are the tree species for this climate.”

Source: La Jornada Maya

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