Lima, capital of Peru, is constantly fighting against air pollution and trying to understand its causes and how to get rid of this problem. Like every megacity in a developing third-world country its main cause is economics. It is cheaper to adapt and deal with the consequences than to make a drastic change that requires not only a national consensus for better health but large amounts of money. Time might be running out as Lima, currently at 21% to 27%, has the highest prevalence of asthma in Latin America.
There are different kinds of air contamination or pollution present in Lima. Smog is mainly caused by old and poorly maintained school buses brought to Lima from the United States and converted into public transportation. Up until a year or so ago, mechanical standards for vehicular circulation and emission tests for autos and buses (“micros”) was non existent and there is no incentive to upgrade an aging fleet of public transportation taking advantage of the somewhat cheap diesel and gasoline.
Also contributing to air pollution is the high number of factories surrounding the capital of Lima. This is not necessarily caused by poor city planning but by the high levels of migration during the past decade that witnessed Lima expanding beyond its original residential limits.
Another kind of air contamination in certain areas of Lima is the bad odor emanating from piles of garbage left uncollected. The good news is that the majority of these areas are located outside the “big” Lima, in places that are not touristic to begin with and where the fast migration to Lima has been met with no public services.
The high levels of sulfur dioxide cause lung problems, including breathing problems, allergies and cancer. Some people with dormant asthma symptoms living in dry states in the midwest like Colorado and Arizona for example can see those symptoms awake or get worse, at times requiring a quick trip to the doctor or clinic for treatment. There is no way to sugar-coat this, if you are coming from a very clean air state (Colorado races to my mind) you will feel the air quality “shock” as soon as leaving the airport. So be prepared and ready if your symptoms worsen. Of course, if your final destination is Cusco or some touristic destination like the Amazon, the air quality will be a rollercoaster for you.
I don’t have any first hand experience with any of the allergy treatment centers in Lima. I only had good experiences in clinics so this will be a challenge for readers with any experience about this subject to comment in the blog. Thanks.