Air quality in Colombia

Air quality index (AQI) and PM2.5 air pollution in Colombia

Last update at (local time)

LIVE AQI CITY RANKING

Real-time Colombia
Most polluted city ranking

#cityUS AQI
1 Bogota, Bogota D.C.

94

2 Bucaramanga, Santander

93

3 Bello, Antioquia

81

4 Sabaneta, Antioquia

66

5 Medellin, Antioquia

46

6 La Estrella, Antioquia

45

7 Envigado, Antioquia

44

8 Girardota, Antioquia

42

9 Caldas, Antioquia

33

10 Barbosa, Antioquia

28

(local time)

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LIVE AQI CITY RANKING

Real-time Colombia
Cleanest city ranking

#cityUS AQI
1 Manizales, Caldas

24

2 Guarne, Antioquia

27

3 Barbosa, Antioquia

28

4 Caldas, Antioquia

33

5 Girardota, Antioquia

42

6 Envigado, Antioquia

44

7 La Estrella, Antioquia

45

8 Medellin, Antioquia

46

9 Sabaneta, Antioquia

66

10 Bello, Antioquia

81

(local time)

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Good
Moderate
Unhealthy for sensitive groups
Unhealthy
Very unhealthy
Hazardous
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OVERVIEW

How polluted is Colombia?

The national flag of India

2021 Air quality average

Human face indicating AQI level

Moderate

2021 average US AQI

54

!

PM2.5

x2.8

2021 average PM2.5 concentration in Colombia: 2.8 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value

2021  Colombia cleanest city Guarne , Antioquia

39

2021  Colombia most polluted city Medellin , Antioquia

58

2021 aqi country ranking

How does Colombia rank globally in air pollution?

72/ 118 countries ranked in 2021

Which country had the worst air quality in 2021?

#COUNTRYPopulationAVG. US AQI
1The national flag of IndiaBangladesh164'689'383

161

2The national flag of IndiaChad16'425'859

161

3The national flag of IndiaPakistan220'892'331

156

4The national flag of IndiaTajikistan9'537'642

152

5The national flag of IndiaIndia1'380'004'385

151

6The national flag of IndiaOman5'106'622

146

7The national flag of IndiaKyrgyzstan6'524'191

138

8The national flag of IndiaBahrain1'701'583

136

9The national flag of IndiaIraq40'222'503

136

10The national flag of IndiaNepal29'136'808

126

72The national flag of IndiaColombia50'882'884

54

SEE DETAIL

How to best protect from air pollution?

Reduce your air pollution exposure in Colombia

AIR QUALITY ANALYSIS AND STATISTICS FOR Colombia

What is the air quality like in Colombia?

Colombia is a country located in South America, officially known as the Republic of Colombia.It is counted as a transcontinental country, with a majority of its landmassfalling into the northern portion of South America as well as having landterritory in North America. It is bordered by other countries such as Brazil, Venezuela, Panama and Bogota.

In terms of its air quality and pollution levels, Colombia as a whole comes in with somefairly consistent readings of pollution levels, and whilst they are not perfectand could certainly stand to improve, they do not see the massive spikes inPM2.5 that other countries around the world are subject to, often seeing largedisparities between certain months of the year due to seasonal events such as farmland burning or other such similar occurrences.

Colombia came in with a PM2.5 reading of 14.61 μg/m³ in 2019, putting it in 64thplace out of all the most polluted countries worldwide, coming in behindcountries such as Hungary and Lithuania (14.57 μg/m³ and 14.49 μg/m³respectively) but also faring better than other countries such as Brazil andAngola (15.77 μg/m³ and 15.90 μg/m³) which took 63rd and 62nd place.

Colombia's PM2.5 reading of 14.61 μg/m³ put it into the ‘moderate’ pollution bracket,which requires any reading between 12.1 to 35.4 μg/m³ to be classed as such,showing that it is indeed on the lower side of this bracket, with improvementsin its air quality by only a few units enough to move it down a notch into the‘good’ ratings bracket of 10 to 12 μg/m³, perhaps an achievable goal for thecountry over the next few years if the right initiatives are taken.

PM2.5 refers to particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter, which isapproximately 3% the width of a human hair. Due to this extremely small size,it presents a great danger when inhaled by people, and as such is used as amajor component in the calculation of overall levels of air quality, or US AQI.There are larger forms of it such as PM10, which whilst they present salienthealth issues, are not as dangerous as their smaller counterparts.

Out of the 12 cities registered for air pollution readings in Colombia, the majority of themcame in with very similar readings of moderate pollution readings, with onecity (Barbosa) coming in with a ‘good’ pollution reading of 10.7 μg/m³, and itscleanest city Guarne coming in at 8.5 μg/m³, making it the only city inColombia to fall within the World Health Organizations (WHO) target goal of 0to 10 μg/m³, giving it a very good quality of air and a majority of months comingin under 10 μg/m³. The most polluted city in Colombia over 2019 was Sabaneta,which had a PM2.5 reading of 22.4 μg/m³, once again in the moderate pollution bracket.

What are the main causes of pollution in Colombia?

Colombia would see its pollution arising from many different sources, and as with allcountries across the world many of these would remain the same but with a fewmajor difference’s endemic to a particular region of the world, and as is oftenthe case in south America, the abuse and destruction to areas of rainforest canfigure largely into their pollutive problems, not just regarding air qualitybut an overall environmental issue, which in turn has knock on effects of air pollution levels.

Main causes of air pollution in Colombia would be emissions and fumes given off byvehicles, particularly those emitted by heavy duty vehicles such as trucks,lorries and buses. Many of these larger vehicles use heavily outdated engines,as well as running on fossil fuels such as diesel, or lower quality fuel ingeneral that can produce much larger amounts of pollution and novel chemicalsnot seen in cleaner vehicle emissions. Traffic and vehicle pollution amount forthe majority of the pollution seen in Colombia, particularly pertinent in the capital city of Bogota.

With a large amount of its population undergoing rapid urbanization, naturally there comes apopulation boom along with it, as well as an increase in infrastructure. Thisleads onto the next most pertinent source of pollution, which is emissions fromfactories. Besides cars and other vehicles running on diesel and low-qualityfuels, factories and production facilities often rely on fossil fuels such ascoal to provide their energy, which in turn puts out large amounts of noxioussmoke, haze and other fine particulate matter.

With this rapid move towards urbanization occurring, naturally there is an exponentialgrowth in the number of vehicles on the road, which is why cars and the liketake the top spot for pollutive issues in Colombia, and indeed much of South America.

Other sources of pollution that are not as prominent (but still relevant) as vehicular orfactory emissions would include ones such as the open burning of refuse orgarbage, which besides containing organic materials can also contain syntheticor man-made ones. Others would include poorly maintained roads and constructionsites, both of which can give off large amounts of finely ground dust into theair that can have a terrible effect on the health of Colombia's citizens, particularlywhen these finely ground particles are mixed with other pollutants. Dangerousparticles known as ‘road dust’ can happen when naturally occurring materialssuch as dirt or gravel get exposed constantly to exhaust fumes, which permeatesthe fine particulate matter as well as sending it billowing into the atmosphereas thousands of cars drive over it, giving rise to more dangerous forms of PM2.5 and PM10.

To summarize, the main sources of pollution are vehicular and factory emissions, with other issuessuch as construction sites and road dust all playing a part in the elevated levels of pollution present in Colombia.

Is the air quality in Colombia improving?

Observing the data taken over previous years, with more readings present in the capital cityof Bogota, it appears that the overall level of air quality in the country hasactually gotten worse by a marginal amount. This could be due to theintroduction of newer sources of pollution readings, which could lead to skeweddata results, or an actual decrease in overall air quality.

In the capital city however, an improvement was seen, with a similar marginal naturebut still an improvement nonetheless. Bogota came in with a PM2.5 reading of15.7 μg/m³ in 2017, followed by a further improvement in 2018 of 13.9 μg/m³.This then improved more so to 13.1 μg/m³ in 2019, showing a consistent increasein the quality of air.

Environmental issues in Colombia and indeed the whole of south America have become moreprominent in recent times, with gradual initiatives and changes being put intoplay, although with still a fair way to go as mentioned before.

Colombia as a country came in with a PM2.5 reading of 13.90 μg/m³ in 2018, and then a readingof 14.61 μg/m³ in 2019, displaying the aforementioned slight worsening ofnumbers. As touched upon, this could be due to the adding of more cities to thecountry’s registry, or from mild fluctuations between pollution levels as canoften be seen in countries and cities around the world.

The reading taken one year apart is not a huge cause for concern, but as with any readingthat comes in worse in terms of air quality, the appropriate steps need to betaken to ensure that it does not continue on such a trend, with air qualitybeing linked more and more to high mortality rates and accounting for a largeamount of respiratory related hospital visits not only in Colombia but worldwide. And as such it is of utmost importance to keep pollution levels on a path towards improvement.

What are the main types of pollution found in the air in Colombia?

With a large amount of its pollution coming from sources such as vehicular emissions as wellas from factories, the air would certain gases and particulate matter thatarise from these industries. Pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (N02)and sulfur dioxide (SO2) would be released from vehicles, withlarger quantities coming from the heavy-duty vehicles, most prominently the diesel-powered ones.

Nitrogen dioxide is the main offender arising from car exhaust, being found on bothground level readings as well as satellite ones, often correlating directlywith how much traffic there is in any given area. There is such a strong linkbetween the two that in many instances, high levels of nitrogen dioxide arestrong indicators that there will be heavy traffic in the surrounding areas.

With both fossil fuels being burnt in factories and cars, other pollutants such as blackcarbon and volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) would arise from their use, bothof which are produced from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels as well asorganic material such as wood or plant matter (that may occur in areasundergoing deforestation, as well as arising from open burn sources such asgarbage being burnt in the streets, particular prominent in lower income areaswhere garbage collection is not as efficient as it could be).

Some examples of VOC’s would include chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde, both ofwhich have serious health issues for those exposed to them, particularly overlonger periods of time. Black carbon is a major component of soot and is oftenpresent in areas that see high traffic, as well as being seen visibly pushedout by the ancient heavy-duty vehicles that populate the roads, with their oldand poor-quality engines putting out far larger quantities, way beyond what is considered safe.

Black carbon is particularly harmful to both human health as well as the environment, withknown carcinogenic properties as well as its incredibly small size allowing itto penetrate deep into the corners of the lungs and cause a myriad of healthissues. It also has a prominent effect on the environment as well, due to itsproperty of absorbing solar radiation and converting it directly into heat,thus being responsible for increasing the temperature in any given area and affecting the climate.

Other pollutants that would be found in varying quantities in the air in Colombiawould be ones such as carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3), silica dustfrom construction sites as well as more dangerous pollutants such as dioxins,furans and metals such as lead and mercury being released from the open burningof synthetic materials such as rubber or plastic, which whilst not as prominentas other countries in the world, still occurs in Colombia.

What are some health issues related to air pollution in Colombia?

Looking at the pollution readings taken in times past, one can see that living in Colombiawould not be overtly disastrous on personal health, although it is important tonote that whilst Colombia does not see the same catastrophic PM2.5 levels thata country such as Bangladesh or Pakistan may see (with yearly averages of 83.50μg/m³ and 65.81 being recorded in 2019, putting them in first and secondplace), it must be stressed that any reading that exceeds the WHO’s target goalof under 10 μg/m³ may have possibly negative health effects, with both thenumber of ailments as well as the chances of them occurring increasing with acorrelation to the pollution levels, with other small factors such as portionsof the population being exposed to higher pollution numbers due to living in areas of high traffic or industrial areas.

With readings as high as 35 μg/m³ being taken in the city of Sabaneta, as well as highs of24.4 μg/m³ in Bogota, possible health effects would include issues such as awhole host of respiratory related issues. These would be ones such as chronicobstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), an umbrella term that includes within itmany lung related illnesses such as aggravated asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis and emphysema.

Other conditions would include heightened instances of cancers, particularly that of the lungs,stomach and throat. Pregnant women are very much at risk, with elevated chancesof miscarriage, premature birth as well as babies being born with a low birth weight all possible.

Which is the most polluted state in Colombia?

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