‘Pollution measures should not be throughout the city’

The public health doctor Luis Jorge Hernández, who has carried out research at the Universidad de los Andes on the impact of air pollution on people’s health, says that measures to mitigate the effects of particulate matter produced by forest fires that affect Bogotá should be focused on the most vulnerable population, due to age or underlying diseases or because they live, move or work in the areas of influence of corridors where tractor-trailers and public transport travel.

Do forest fires aggravate pollution?

Air pollution in Bogotá is already high, especially by mobile sources, which is 60 percent, especially cargo and public transport, and fixed sources, but now it has been aggravated by the forest fires in the Amazon and Orinoquia. The predominant pollutant is breathable particulate matter, especially PM2.5, generated by fossil fuels, basically diesel and ACPM.

Is the risk to health increasing due to the peak of contagion?

Air pollution cannot be separated from covid, and all actions have to be in the context of covid.

Why are the measures not can they be separated from covid?

In studies from Mexico, China and the European Union, air pollution by particulate matter is a risk factor for covid, because the virus is transmitted through the air , by aerosols, and adheres to the particulate material and this serves as a carrier vehicle. So, air quality becomes fundamental, not only outdoors but also indoors.

Can the symptoms of covid and those of air pollution be confused?

Symptoms cannot be seen differently and that is why we are more at risk. We have a double burden, due to covid and air pollution. Other respiratory viruses are also circulating.

Should a mask always be worn?

People should wear a mask outdoors. If there are symptomatic people in internal environments, they should wear it, ideally everyone should wear a mask.

(Also read: Secretary of the Environment reported an improvement in air quality in Bogotá).

Air pollution cannot be separated from covid, and all actions have to be in the context of covid

Should the measures be targeted or should they be for the entire city?

They should not be taken Montonera measures, but to focus on the most vulnerable, sick and location population. We are all breathing pollutants, some times more than others, but with these high levels, the measures must be especially oriented to the areas of influence of 13th Street, the South Highway, and the North Highway; and the most vulnerable population, such as children under 5, pregnant mothers, older adults and people with underlying diseases, which are the same ones that covid is affecting.

What is the recommendation for these people?

For people with underlying diseases such as COPD, chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, diabetes…, the EPS should establish more personalized counseling and the treating physician should be looking at contamination levels for possible dosing recommendations and for warning signs. At this point, they must use an N95 mask, not a magic one, which is worth 3,000 pesos, but a good one, which can cost 10,000, 15,000 or 20,000 pesos. It must be given by the health system because it is a prevention mechanism, just like the vaccine. And the people of Bogota, in general, should not close doors or windows, on the contrary, it is necessary to facilitate the ventilation of interior spaces.

What type of physical activity can be carried out?

You can do physical activity and go out, but not do strong or prolonged physical activity, which demands cardiac output. When do you know that you are doing strong and prolonged physical activity? When you’re going to speak and you can’t. That’s a good indicator, that’s what to avoid. So, you can do a light walk, but do not jog or intense bicycle or exercise bike. You can go to the bike path. The mayor said that if this continues, we will close the bike lane; that is a mistake, closing the bike lane and the parks aggravates the problem. Physical health and mental health will be affected. Confinement affects people, it generates depression, anxiety, post-traumatic syndrome.

What are the warning signs?

They are the same for covid. In adults, shortness of breath, chest pain, tightness, weakness, loss or alteration of consciousness, lightheadedness. In children under 5 years of age, when they have a fever for more than 2 days, they do not eat, vomit everything and breathe quickly.

Even in the apartment, physical activity should not be intense…

It doesn’t have to be intense. Separating the extramural from the intramural makes no sense. The air we breathe inside our homes, apartments, or workplace is the same air outside. And if any person is a smoker, which would be a source of emission, they should not smoke.

(Keep reading: Air pollution: A recurring environmental alert / Opinion).

It is not ruled out that pollution will increase between today and Thursday

The rains, the closure of factories, the reduction of public and freight transport and the attention to outbreaks in Guaviare over the weekend contributed to lower air pollution levels in Bogotá, without However, the effects of the fires in the Orinoquia and the Amazon, in Venezuela and even in Peru continued. Yesterday, in fact, the measurement stations varied between two and five in a favorable state (green) and the rest in a moderate state (yellow).

Carolina Urrutia, head of the portfolio Department of the Environment, said that the conditions may worsen between today and Thursday, and stressed that the use of the mask must be maintained, and physical activity should be avoided, even moderate and indoors. She insisted that although the restriction to vehicles and trucks helps, that is little compared to the effects of the fires. The CAR announced that it has intensified controls on fixed and mobile sources in neighboring municipalities.