Puerto Rico Ranks Among Top 10 Countries for Air Quality Despite Local Pollution Concerns

Puerto Rico ranks among top 10 countries with best air quality, but local experts warn of other pollutants impacting health. The WHO survey highlights progress, but a multifaceted approach is needed to address diverse environmental challenges facing the Caribbean.

Ebenezer Mensah
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Puerto Rico Ranks Among Top 10 Countries for Air Quality Despite Local Pollution Concerns

Puerto Rico Ranks Among Top 10 Countries for Air Quality Despite Local Pollution Concerns

Puerto Rico has been ranked among the top 10 countries with the best air quality in a recent World Health Organization (WHO) survey, despite local experts raising concerns about the impact of other pollutants on human health in the archipelago for years. The survey, conducted by air quality technology company IQAir, found that out of 107 countries assessed in 2021, every nation failed to meet quality standards recommended by the WHO for PM2.5 concentrations, which measure fine particulate matter in the air.

Only four cities in the survey, including San Juan, Puerto Rico and Charlotte Amalie in the U.S. Virgin Islands, were found to meet the WHO's air quality standards. Along with New Caledonia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were the only territories that fell within the acceptable PM2.5 levels outlined by the global health authority. In contrast, the United States as a whole registered an average PM2.5 concentration of 10.3 microns per cubic meter, double the amount advised by the WHO.

The U.S. Clean Air Act of 1970 has played a significant role in reducing air pollution across the country over the past several decades. However, factors such as continued reliance on fossil fuels, an increase in wildfires, and inconsistent enforcement of the Act's provisions have contributed to lingering air quality issues in many parts of the nation. While some cities like San Juan have managed to maintain relatively low particulate matter levels, the overall situation highlights the persistent difficulties in mitigating air pollution.

Why this matters: Air pollution remains a critical global health issue, with millions of premature deaths attributed to exposure to contaminated air each year. Puerto Rico's ranking in the WHO survey highlights the importance of local and regional efforts to maintain air quality, even as other environmental threats persist.

For Puerto Rico, the WHO ranking comes as a positive sign, but local experts caution that the archipelago continues to grapple with other pollutants that pose risks to residents' health and wellbeing. As one of the Caribbean islands impacted by the devastating sargassum seaweed blooms in recent years, Puerto Rico has experienced the damaging effects of the invasive algae, including noxious gas emissions and contamination of water resources. The WHO survey serves as a reminder that while progress has been made on certain fronts, a multifaceted approach is necessary to comprehensively address the diverse environmental challenges facing Puerto Rico and other Caribbean nations.

Key Takeaways

  • Puerto Rico ranked among top 10 countries for best air quality in WHO survey.
  • Every country failed to meet WHO's PM2.5 standards, except 4 cities including San Juan.
  • US average PM2.5 concentration is double the WHO-advised level.
  • Air pollution remains a critical global health issue, causing millions of premature deaths.
  • Puerto Rico faces other environmental threats like sargassum seaweed blooms.