Authors: Omar Ramírez, Ivan Mura, Juan Felipe Franco
Similarly to other Latin American countries, urban air quality is a major concern in Colombia. The purpose of the present study was to explore citizens’ perception on local air pollution, its causes and impacts. A questionnaire was individually applied to a sample of 994 participants. Relationships between demographic features and the perception on air quality were analyzed using a logistic regression, its odds ratio (OR), and a Chi-square test. Eighty percent of the respondents perceive their local air quality as either bad or fair, 65% recognize particulate matter as the main local air pollutant, and 90% recognize negative impacts on people’s health as the main consequence of air pollution. In contrast to other studies where age and economic status are variables highly related with public perception on the level of atmospheric pollution, in this study only the size of the cities has a statistically significant relationship with the perception on local air quality regarding the level of pollution(OR ≥ 1, confidence intervals > 1 and p-values < 0.05). While area sources such as mining and infrastructure construction are identified as the main sources of pollutant emissions in small towns (less than 50,000 inhabitants), in big cities, road traffic is identified as the main source contributor to atmospheric pollution. Opposite to data from official reports, and regardless of the size of the city, households are perceived as the place with greatest contribution to personal air pollution exposure. Results show that citizens are aware of the state of air quality and its health impact is a major concern. Such findings suggest people’s opinions can be used as provisional indicators in cities without data, as well as to monitor the results of local air quality management. As a complementary process, or at the same level of importance given to technical-based policy, citizen participation can contribute to a collective construction of urban air pollution control strategies.
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