Smog in Santiago

Foto Credit C.hileno (found via Image Search)

One of my biggest concern about living in Santiago is the Smog. The six months I spent here in summer were amazing and while there was some smog in summer it was not at all bad. I know, I know the hard time will be the winter and that is what I am a little scared off. I have been asking lots of people. How is it really like? And I got very mixed answers. Mexicans (from the Capital) and real Santigans did not see it as a huge issue. Even one expat from Belgium said it was not bad but ALL the other Expats were heavily complaining and that is what I am a little scared of. What is your experience? Do you suffer from the winter smog?

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BTW Here is a brilliant Article about the Santiago Smog Santiago struggles with Smog

As Smog was one of my main concerns about living in Santiago I will be reporting about it throughout the winter (btw I am not here for the next 4 weeks 😉 so the report will start afterwards)

update: Nov 2009

Here is my “Santiago Smog experience” after the 1st winter

8 thoughts on “Smog in Santiago

  1. Liz

    Smog is really bad and nobody likes to live in a contaminated city, but Santiago has a lot of good things and you can also go out every weekend to the mountains or to the beach to breathe fresh air. Maybe it is because I’m mexican and I am used to it, but I never felt that it affected my health… time will tell… 😉

  2. I think it’s pretty bad. Last year I had to wear my glasses instead of contacts for a few weeks because my eyes were just killing me, and I basically have a runny nose/sore throat all winter long. Last year we went to the “Bodies” exhibit, and I was a bit scared by the fact that the lungs of a non-smoker who lived in an industrial city looked the same as all of the smokers’ lungs. If we were going to live here forever (especially with children) I would worry about my long/term respiratory health, but as it is I just try to survive the winter and thank god I don’t smoke on top of it!

  3. Emily, you are scaring me, really..! I have read on your blog that you were struggling last year. I hope it is better for you this year. Is there less smog in the area you live now compared to previously?

    I guess I will have to make sure to escape every single weekend. And I am thinking (this is not a joke) about buying a smog mask. Here is one I found:

    I am obsessed with the smog and have also compared the average live expectancy of Chilenos to Austrians. Chilenos live two years shorter. But I guess I cannot only blame the smog.

    Here is a list of countries by life expectancy:

    Brazil: 72.70 (!?)
    Mexico: 75.84
    Chile: 76.96
    United States: 78.06
    UK: 78.7
    Austria: 79.21
    Spain: 79.78
    Italy: 80.5

    Well well.. Austria, Italy and Spain are definitely higher as the public health system is better than in the first 4 countries but I do wonder if the smog has something to do with the almost 5 years less Mexicans can expect to live compared to Italians…

  4. I think how it affects you really depends on the person. I am kind of a wimp with respiratory stuff (had bad pneumonia as a kid and think it made me a weakling), so I really feel the smog. Other people aren’t as affected. That doesn’t make it healthier in the long run, but as far as that goes all you can do is try to support anti-pollution initiatives/politicians and yes, move out to the more expensive suburbs.

    I don’t know if there’s less smog where I am this year, since it’s not really all that far, but I do know that there’s less general particle matter in the air. Living in Plaza Italia, our floors would be covered in really fine black soot from all the micros, and some of that has got to get into your lungs.

    Don’t forget that the life expectancy numbers in Brazil account for serious violence in some parts of the country, where people die very young.

    1. thanks Emily, lets hope for a lot of rain to clear the smog. Also as I mentioned above I will be trying to leave the city at weekends… Hope this year you will feel it less and the new location will sure help.

  5. I avoid Santiago as much as I can, even in summer when the smog is ‘not that bad’ (it still has pollution levels that would classed close to emergency levels in most European cities).

    I was in Santiago last Thursday and when I arrived, the air had a metallic taste (this is normal in winter) and within 20 minutes I had a pounding headache, which didn’t go away for over 24 hours after arriving back in Valpo. I couldn’t see Cerro San Cristobal from under 1km away. When you live in Santiago, your body adapts so you get used to the smog (as in the physical effects tend to diminish)…but it doesn’t mean it’s not harming you.

    Respiratory diseases are common in winter. The newspaper run a pretty much daily toll of the number of kids in hospital and at clinics. Government levels of ‘Good’ quality air are worse than most European emergency levels. The Government doesn’t actually bother to measure one of the most dangerous pollutants (although I can’t remember which one it is).

    I truly don’t understand why anyone would risk their health so obviously if they do not need to live in Santiago. For those who have no option, it’s a shame they’ll have to deal with the health consequences in the future.

    1. Thanks for your input Matt.
      I have seen only the pictures of the extreme smog. We currently live in Las Condes and on the smog map it seems to be less affected then other parts of town.

      I have chosen to be with my future wife and she has a great job in Santiago. One alternative would be to live in Mexico DF but in DF there is smog 300 days a year so we will just see how the first winter actually goes.

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