Chile has placed its capital of Santiago under environmental emergency after levels of air pollution skyrocketed to dangerous levels.
The order prompted the temporary closure of over 900 industries. It also directed that 40 percent of the city’s current 1.7 million cars be forced off the roads. That’s equivalent to a whopping 680,000 units of vehicles.
The Environment Ministry said it was forced to push the environmental emergency declaration because of the city’s unusual weather conditions. “We have one of the driest Junes in over 40 years as well as really bad air circulation conditions in the Santiago valley in recent days, which boosts the concentration of contamination,” the ministry said in a statement.
The last time Santiago was placed in such an emergency was in 1999.
The ministry also warned people against outdoor exercise because air pollution levels have reached a critical point, despite the fact that Santiago is this year’s host of the Copa America football tournament. At least six million residents are affected, according to BBC.
Games, however, aren’t usually cancelled due to poor air quality, according to Phys.org. There is a game scheduled on Wednesday.
“The Copa America respects the international commitments of Chile so it will not be suspended but we hope that for Wednesday the levels will go down,” said Claudio Orrego, the mayor of Santiago, via Goal. “What is at stake here is the health of the people. We have really bad conditions in regard to the environmental and atmospheric conditions,” Orrego further stated.
A study via Environmental Pollution released in 2014 said Santiago was “one of the cities with the most serious air pollution problems in the world.” Small breathable particulate matter known as PM2.5 had built-up due to the lack of rain and winds, eventually shrouding the city in smog.
Apart from environmental damage, particulate matter, which can enter the lungs and bloodstream, can result to heart disease and respiratory difficulties.