Air pollution and environmental epidemiological evidence in Chile: alerts for decision-makers and citizens

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Air pollution in Chile presents unique challenges, exacerbated by inequalities and geographical and climatic diversity. Current policies have not succeeded in aligning air quality with international and national standards, nor have they significantly mitigated public health impacts, despite being more advanced than those in other Latin American countries. The evidence on the health damages caused by air pollution is compelling, showing harmful acute and chronic effects across various life stages. Yet, current measures do not effectively reduce exposure to pollutants. The monitoring network, which reports data from stationary and mobile sources, does not always detect early fugitive emissions and is limited to regulated pollutants, leaving areas without adequate monitoring coverage and without management plans for critical episodes outside of autumn and winter and for a reduced number of pollutants. In the context of climate change, which increases the frequency of forest fires, Chile is experiencing a deterioration of air quality, highlighting the need to expand critical episode management beyond the current Air Pollution Prevention and/or Atmospheric Decontamination Plans. Integrated intersectoral plans need to be improved and extended to address the high exposure to pollutants, due to the large number of people exposed, and a broad population health risks, including quality of life. Decarbonisation by 2040 based on the Sustainable Development Goals is an important pillar of the strategy, but a public debate is needed to establish additional actions for addressing environmental injustice, improving equity and reducing current exposure to air pollutants.