Lessened vehicle standards returns dangerous smog to Mexico City

CCTV News

Toxic smog over Mexico city

Until recently, Mexico City was considered a world leader in reducing smog. But a recent decision to allow more vehicles on the road has brought back dangerously contaminated air. CCTV’s Franc Contreras reported from the Mexican capital.

Lessened vehicle standards returns dangerous smog to Mexico City

Lessened vehicle standards returns dangerous smog to Mexico City

Until recently, Mexico City was considered a world leader in reducing smog. But a recent decision to allow more vehicles on the road has brought back dangerously contaminated air. CCTV's Franc Contreras reported from the Mexican capital.

Even on what’s considered a relatively clear day, a toxic cocktail fills the skies over Mexico City.

New alerts over dangerous levels of ozone and floating micro particles have been issued. Mexico City regulations used to prohibit older vehicles from operating on these roads.

But in 2015, Mexico’s Supreme Court reversed that decision, saying all vehicles that pass smog verification tests – even older ones – are allowed to operate. Now 600,000 more cars and trucks can be on the road every day, belching more smog into the air.

Pablo Hurtado is a leading expert on the causes of air pollution in Mexico City. He says the Supreme Court’s decision to let older vehicles operate is harming air quality.

“It was bad,” Hurtado said. ”Judicial authorities decided to allow 600,000 more vehicles to circulate upon passing inspection. After that, we started getting air pollution danger alerts.”

Decades ago, the city government created smog emissions centers to test cars. It hasn’t always worked. Some citizens bribe inspectors in order to get cars with emission problems approved.

In an effort to upgrade the car emissions testing process, Mexico City officials plan to shift gears and start using computer technology. They hope that will end the illegal payoffs.

Government official Martin Gutierrez is the one who decides when to issue what have become very unpopular smog alerts. These alerts keep thousands of citizens from using their cars. He says motor vehicles are largely responsible for making the air here poisonous.

“The key ingredients of ozone are nitrogen oxides – of which 88 percent come from motor vehicles,” Gutierrez said. “Then come hydrocarbons – known as volatile organic compounds. Of those, 35 percent are coming from vehicles as well.”

When there’s no wind, high mountains around the Mexican capital can trap in the polluted air. Ultra violet radiation from the sun produces high ozone levels, making this one of the most dangerous places in the world to draw a breath.