A “pre-emergency” air pollution warning issued for the Santiago region July 10 has been downgraded to an “alert” warning as of Tuesday, July 11, following a slight drop in pollution levels. Less extensive driving restrictions are in effect; cars without green pollution rating stickers (sello verde) whose license plates end in 0, 1, 2, or 9 are not permitted on the roads between the hours of 07:30 and 21:00 (local time). These restrictions are in place implemented throughout Santiago province as well as in the communes of Puente Alto and San Bernardo.
Additionally, a total ban on all wood-burning stoves, ovens, and agricultural fires remains in place in the Santiago Metropolitan Region.
Health officials have warned that increased pollution could cause eye, nose, and throat irritation and aggravate cardiovascular and respiratory conditions (such as asthma). The government advises against all outdoor exercise and recommends that schools cancel physical education classes. Vulnerable individuals - e.g. children, seniors, pregnant women, and people suffering from asthma and other respiratory issues - should be particularly cautious and consider wearing masks covering their nose and mouth when outdoors.
The capital region has been plagued by numerous occasions of high air pollution levels since late May. The current alert could be renewed into the coming days.
Air pollution levels are generally high in Santiago, home to seven million inhabitants (40 percent of the national population), due to the city’s location deep in a valley in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, as well as significant traffic congestion. Population levels tend to rise in the (southern hemisphere) fall and winter period. A mobile telephone application called “Aire Santiago” is available (in Spanish) for download and informs users of air pollution levels and associated restrictions in real-time. It has become one of the most-downloaded apps in the country.
Individuals present in the capital region are advised to monitor the situation in the coming days, limit outdoor activity, and adhere to any instructions issued by the local authorities.