Editorial Feature

How Brazil is Tackling Pollution

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In the last decade, Brazil has experienced a 14% increase in air pollution-related deaths, which amounts to an average of about 50,000 deaths each year. As this death toll continues to rise, the Brazilian government has been forced to review their outdated legislation for the betterment of their nation’s public health.

Limitations in Brazilian Policy

In 1988, the Brazilian Constitution declared that each citizen had the right to a safe environment. Furthermore, this declaration found that the Brazilian government was primarily responsible for preserving this nation’s ecological environment through the nationwide enforcement of relevant legislation. For example. Brazil introduced the National Air Quality Program, otherwise referred to as Pronar, in 1989, as an effort to establish national standards for air quality that must be met throughout the country.

Unfortunately, despite the numerous scientific advancements that have been made over the past three decades regarding air pollution, the standards that were originally established by Pronar in 1989 have yet to be accurately updated. In fact, only eight Brazilian states including Rio Grande do Sul, Paraná, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Espírito Santo, Minas Gerais, Goiás, and Bahia currently monitor the levels of air pollutants. When comparing the Brazilian air quality limits to those set by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2005, Brazilian standards are as much as four times as lenient.

Resolution by the Ministry of Environment

After physicians, environmental activists and specialists around the nation condemned the archaic legislation that was severely harming public health, Brazil’s Ministry of the Environment finally drafted Resolution 03/90 in April of 2012. Under this document, new air quality standards would be adopted over the course of four distinct phases. Phase PI-1, which is the initial phase of Resolution 03/90, which began shortly after the resolution was published, established an acceptable Particulate Matter (PM10) limit of 120 µg/m3, which is comparable to the previously held PM10 limit of 50 µg/m3.

Each sequential standard is scheduled to be reassessed and adopted every 5 years by Conama, which is the National Council on the Environment in Brazil. Furthermore, several amendments drafted by Conama’s Technical Board on Environmental Quality and Waste Management have been discussed and approved in order to ensure that the proposal will improve the air quality standards throughout all of Brazil.

Plastic Pollution in Brazil

In 2018, Brazil ranked as the 16th most mismanaged nation in terms of plastic waste by mass. Brazil, which is the fourth-largest producer of plastic waste in the world, is estimated to recycle only 1.28% of the 11.4 million tons of waste they produce each year. As a result, about 7.7 million tons of Brazil’s plastic waste will ultimately end up in landfills.

In order to begin to ameliorate their plastic waste generation, Brazil’s government has begun to introduce legislation that will eventually eliminate single-use plastic around the country. For example, Rio de Janeiro has already banned the use of plastic drinking straws, whereas Brazil’s largest city of Sao Paulo has prohibited the use of petroleum-based plastic bags.

Conclusion

While it appears that over the past 7 years, Brazil’s government has taken more significant steps towards improving their air quality standards, many still believe that the Resolution 03/90 proposed by Conama is not a sustainable resolution. Furthermore, individuals like Fatina Borghi, who is a Federal Prosecutor in Brazil, believes that economic and political interests remain the priority of Brazilian politicians over improving the quality of their environment and public health status. Although certain private companies, like the Clean Urban Delta Initiative, have improved environmental conditions for certain areas, it remains the responsibility of the federal government to enforce what actions are acceptable in the interest of protecting the public.

Sources and Further Reading

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Benedette Cuffari

Written by

Benedette Cuffari

After completing her Bachelor of Science in Toxicology with two minors in Spanish and Chemistry in 2016, Benedette continued her studies to complete her Master of Science in Toxicology in May of 2018. During graduate school, Benedette investigated the dermatotoxicity of mechlorethamine and bendamustine, which are two nitrogen mustard alkylating agents that are currently used in anticancer therapy.

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