Environmental contingency: what is it, why does it exist and an example of a plan

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The environmental pollution it is one of the great problems of our society. Sometimes, the level of contamination is so high that they can be a risk for the inhabitants. For this reason, governments must take a series of measures to deal with these environmental threats.

In this Green Ecologist article we will investigate about the environmental contingency: what is it, why does it exist and some examples of plans that have taken place.

What is the environmental contingency

An environmental contingency plan is a set of measures that governments or authorities of an area have to take with the objective of protecting the inhabitants of the area at times when contamination can constitute a serious health risk. These measures may include recommendations such as staying indoors or suspending some services, private or public. An environmental contingency plan consists of several phases, depending on the severity of the situation, and the measures vary between phases.

All phases of an environmental contingency plan they last a full day and will continue in case pollution is not reduced. The phase ends only when the Metropolitan Air Quality Index (IMECA) for ozone or particles smaller than ten micrometers (PM10) is less than 150 points after one day of phase activation.

In fact, within these contingency plans, there is an immediately prior phase called pre-contingency when the air quality is already very bad. In this previous phase, certain measures are already taken, such as suspending outdoor activities, prohibiting the burning of solids and liquids in the open air and restrictions on the use of the vehicle.

In phase I, the situation is already becoming serious and air quality is defined as "extremely bad." In this phase, in addition to the previous measures, others are added such as reduction of industrial activities, reduction of service at gas stations or starting a monitoring on the effects on the population.

In phase II, air quality is already defined as "extremely bad", something that happens when the IMECA (Metropolitan Air Quality Index) of ozone and particles smaller than ten micrometers (PM10) is higher than 245 points . During this phase, all activities in schools, offices, cultural or recreational facilities are suspended.

Why does the environmental contingency exist

In the cities, the levels of air pollutants for protect health of the citizen. Thus, when gases such as ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide or carbon monoxide reach a PM10 of more than 100 points, the air quality is considered bad and if it is less than 51 points it is considered good. As soon as this score is very high, they can cause harm to people who breathe it, such as irritation of the respiratory tract, bronchial damage or poisoning.

The risks associated with high concentrations of these environmental pollutants, and even moderate ones, are irritation of the respiratory tract, damage to the bronchial tubes, discomfort in people with cardiovascular or respiratory problems or risk of asthma attacks in sick people. For these reasons, there are this series of measures that are grouped under the environmental contingency plan.

You can expand this information on the damage caused by pollution with this other post on Air pollution and health problems.

Example of an environmental contingency plan

A environmental contingency plan includes measures such as the following, although they vary depending on the phase:

  • Restrict outdoor activities. In this way, strenuous activities are limited, such as exercise, which increase the amounts of pollutants that are inhaled.
  • Restriction of cultural, civic, sports and recreational activities in schools.
  • Restrict the use of vehicles in the city.
  • Suspend gas station services.

Recently, Mexico City has activated an environmental contingency plan due to the high concentrations of ozone and particles that have exceeded 150 points in air quality, probably due to the fires of the previous days. Pollution has also affected nearby cities, such as Puebla or Pachuca, which have activated environmental contingency plans for the first time in their history.

Another country that has gone through environmental contingency plans during 2014 (and continues to adopt measures) has been China, which has decreed the closure of schools, the reduction of working hours or the closure of factories or foundries. In this case, the problem of pollution in the country is due to the high demand for coal.

In Spain, there are two cities particularly affected by environmental pollution, such as Barcelona or Madrid, in which it is possible to observe a kind of particle "beret" from certain high areas of the city and on certain days. Although environmental contingency plans have not been activated, measures have been taken and taken to reduce this pollution, such is the case of Madrid Central, which has limited traffic in the center from Madrid.

In this other Green Ecologist article we will tell you more about the main environmental problems in Spain.

If you want to read more articles similar to Environmental contingency: what is it, why does it exist and an example of a plan, we recommend that you enter our Pollution category.

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