Air quality affects human health and the ecosystem

Improving our habits has a positive impact on our health and environment. Our well-being also depends on the well-being of ecosystems; the air we breathe is one example. Poor air quality can result in cardiovascular and respiratory issues (including COVID-19), and even some cancers. The forest fires and agricultural burns that occur in the Selva Maya generate particles that harm people, as well as flora and fauna and some productive activities such as beekeeping.

As part of the project ‘Promotion of biodiversity and climate change monitoring’, five air quality sensors (Purple Air) were installed in 2019, three in Petén, Guatemala; one in Belmopán, Belize and one in Calakmul, Mexico. These devices identify and analyze airborne particles, in real time. In 2020 WCS installed ten more sensors in municipalities in the Lake Petén-Itzá basin.

Last August these devices confirmed the poor air quality during a fire at the municipal dump in San Benito, Guatemala. As a result, some institutions helped to put it out, the #YoSoySanBenitoLimpio initiative was formed and the designation of a new site for a better managed landfill was promoted. In Belize, the unhealthy air quality rates detected led to a campaign on social media that pressured the population and institutions to act; the evidence is that the Belizean government approved a law that prohibits burning during the COVID 19 contingency. Currently, Guatemalan and Belizean authorities are evaluating the installation of more sensors, with the aim to monitoring and improving air quality, avoiding serious health risks to the population.

“The health of the rainforest is important and indispensable for human health,” said the Mayan Alliance for the Bees. The actions to improve the health of the population and the ecosystem continue.

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