Ambient fine particulate matter in Latin American cities: Levels, population exposure, and associated urban factors

August 31, 2021

Air quality graphITS Associate Director and UC Berkeley Department of City and Regional Planning Profesor Daniel Rodriguez recently pub;ished with several authors: Ambient fine tttparticulate matter in Latin American cities: Levels, population exposure, and associated urban factors in Science of the Total Environment.

Authors Include: Nelson Gouveia, Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Sao Paulo Medical School, Josiah  L. Kephart, Urban Health Collaborative, Drexel Dornsife School of Public Health, Iryna Dronova, Department of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning, College of Environmental Design, University of California Berkeley, LeslieMcClure, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Dornsife School of Public Health, Drexel UniversityJosé Tapia Granados, Department of Politics, College of Arts & Sciences, Drexel University, Ricardo Morales Betancourt, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Universidad de Los AndesAndrea Cortínez O'Ryang, Universidad de La Frontera, Department of Physical Education, Sports and RecreationJosé Luis Texcalac-Sangrador, Department of Environmental Health, Center for Population Health, National Institute of Public HealthKevin Martinez-Folgard, Instituto de Nutrición de Centroamérica y Panamá (INCAP), Rodriguez, Department of City and Regional Planning and Institute for Transportation Studies, University of California, Berkeley, and Ana V.Diez-Roux, Urban Health Collaborative and Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics Drexel Dornsife School of Public Health



Exposure to particulate matter (PM2.5) is a major risk factor for morbidity and mortality. Yet few studies have examined patterns of population exposure and investigated the predictors of PM2.5 across the rapidly growing cities in lower- and middle-income countries.


Characterize PM2.5 levels, describe patterns of population exposure, and investigate urban factors as predictors of PM2.5 levels.


We used data from the Salud Urbana en America Latina/Urban Health in Latin America (SALURBAL) study, a multi-country assessment of the determinants of urban health in Latin America, to characterize PM2.5 levels in 366 cities comprising over 100,000 residents using satellite-derived estimates. Factors related to urban form and transportation were explored.


We found that about 172 million or 58% of the population studied lived in areas with air pollution levels above the defined WHO-AQG of 10 μg/m3 annual average. We also found that larger cities, cities with higher GDP, higher motorization rate and higher congestion tended to have higher PM2.5. In contrast cities with higher population density had lower levels of PM2.5. In addition, at the sub-city level, higher intersection density was associated with higher PM2.5 and more green space was associated with lower PM2.5. When all exposures were examined adjusted for each other, higher city per capita GDP and higher sub-city intersection density remained associated with higher PM2.5 levels, while higher city population density remained associated with lower levels. The presence of mass transit was also associated with lower PM2.5 after adjustment. The motorization rate also remained associated with PM2.5 and its inclusion attenuated the effect of population density.


These results show that PM2.5 exposures remain a major health risk in Latin American cities and suggest that urban planning and transportation policies could have a major impact on ambient levels.

Read the article: doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.145035