Ecological Problems in India

In many respects, environmental problems are global problems. People all over the world are threatened by the health effects of air pollution and water pollution. Energy use, overpopulation, and mercury production in one part of the world can affect those who live elsewhere. There are, however, aspects of environmental problems which vary from one region to the next. Latin America presents a unique set of environmental issues.

In Latin America, levels of urbanization and motor vehicle use are higher than in most other developing regions throughout the world. Almost ¾ of residents of Latin America live in urban areas. For example, Mexico's population numbers almost 100 million, of which three quarters live in cities. Residents of urban areas experience greater exposure to air pollution. In much of Latin America, motor vehicles emit more pollutants than they do in the U.S. whose Clean Air Act has significantly improved air quality. For example, although a large number of industries are located in and around São Paulo, the 7.8 million vehicles in daily use are considered to be the source of most of the air pollution (Fiueredo, 2007). Tetraethyl lead, when added to gasoline, prevents premature explosion (knocking) but unfortunately, it is also a neurotoxin, and its release can affect brain development in children. Since 1976, all new cars and trucks in U.S. run on unleaded on unleaded gasoline and annual lead emissions have dropped dramatically. Unfortunately, unleaded gasoline is a little more expensive than leaded gasoline and some developing nations still use leaded gasoline. Leaded gas is still used in Mexico City, where 85% childhood diseases are blamed on air pollution and 32 tons of lead emissions are released per day. Although the U.S. banned tetraethyl lead since 1975, this country still ships it to other countries.
Throughout the world, asthma is estimated to cause one in every 250 deaths (Singh, 2005). In the following photo, the most commonly used gas "Comun" is leaded (while the Super is unleaded or "sin plomo").

Asthma rates have increased in industrialized nations and urban centers, correlated with the increase in exposure to air pollution (Lily, 2005). More than 100 million people in Latin America reside in areas where air pollution exceeds limits set by the World Health Organization. Every year, respiratory infections cause almost 1.2 million deaths in Mexico, mostly in children under 5 (Berrueta, 2007). Ozone levels in Mexico City are a serious problem for much of the year. Exposure to ozone pollution worsens asthma and increases the number of those admitted to hospitals/emergency rooms for asthma (Curtis, 2006). Significant amounts of dioxins and furans pollute the air of Sao Paulo (Asuncao, 2005). Air pollution in Mexico City and Sao Paulo has been linked to deaths in adults and children, respiratory problems in children (such as asthma), emergency room visits, and other problems (Bell, 2006). Christian, the young man in the picture below, died of asthma at age 22, leaving a wife and daughter.

Many Latin Americans are exposed to significant levels of indoor air pollution. Exposure to smoke from open fires aggravates respiratory problems, especially among women who may breathe smoke while cooking for 2-4 hours a day (and as many as 8 hours a day). Many stoves have been developed to reduce fuel wood usage (up to 74% less) and exposure to smoke (Berrueta, 2007).

Smoking causes almost 5 million premature deaths per year and, due primarily to the increase in tobacco use in developing nations, it is estimated that this number will rise to 10 million per year by the year 2030. Currently, cigarette smoke causes more deaths per year than AIDS, alcohol, violence, accidents, illegal drug use, and obesity combined (Bianco, 2005). It was estimated that Latin America possessed 95 million smokers in 1995, representing 8% of the global total. In Chile and Argentina, smoking rates among adults approach 40% (Bianco, 2005). The primary cause of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is smoking. Studies indicate that COPD incidence has been underestimated throughout Latin America (Menzes, 2005). The World Health Organization has produced a Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which has been signed and ratified by about half the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. Although the implementation of the recommended policies would reduce tobacco use, the tobacco industry continues its efforts to undermine such efforts (Bianco, 2005).
Cities such as Santiago, Chile; Mexico City, Mexico; and São Paolo, Brazil, are planting vegetation as part of their strategies to improve air quality. Santiago's air pollution problem is due in part to its physical location in a depression surrounded by tall mountains which restrict air movement (Escobedo, 2007).


The average American uses 300 liters of water per day for personal use. Most of the world's population survives with far less. Access to clean water can vary significantly; for example, one area of Chile hasn't received rain in recorded history while one region of India received 72 feet in a year. In many areas throughout the world, water is being extracted from the ground at rates which are causing the levels of underground aquifers to drop dramatically. The main aquifer under Mexico City sinking 11 ft/year and water is now being pumped 1, 000 meters high to reach Mexico City.

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