Air Pollution in Lima Peru


Lima, capital of Peru, is constantly fighting against air pollution and trying to understand its causes and how to get rid of this problem. Like every megacity in a developing third-world country its main cause is economics. It is cheaper to adapt and deal with the consequences than to make a drastic change that requires not only a national consensus for better health but large amounts of money. Time might be running out as Lima, currently at 21% to 27%, has the highest prevalence of asthma in Latin America.

UPDATE: This article has been updated on February 24th, 2017. I removed some outdated information, added better pictures and graphics, as well as a YouTube video showing the measures taken to control air pollution in Lima, Peru. If you like this updated article, please don’t forget to share it with your friends and followers.

(By Pierre Pouliquin)

There are different kinds of air contamination or pollution present in Lima. Smog is mainly caused by old and poorly maintained school buses brought to Lima from the United States and converted into public transportation. Up until a year or so ago (2009), mechanical standards for vehicular circulation and emission tests for autos and buses (“micros”) was non existent and there is no incentive to upgrade an aging fleet of public transportation taking advantage of the somewhat cheap diesel and gasoline.

Also contributing to air pollution is the high number of factories surrounding the capital of Lima. This is not necessarily caused by poor city planning but by the high levels of migration during the past decade that witnessed Lima expanding beyond its original residential limits.

Another kind of air contamination in certain areas of Lima is the bad odor emanating from piles of garbage left uncollected. The good news is that the majority of these areas are located outside the “big” Lima, in places that are not touristic to begin with and where the fast migration to Lima has been met with no public services.

The high levels of sulfur dioxide cause lung problems, including breathing problems, allergies and cancer. Some people with dormant asthma symptoms living in dry states in the midwest like Colorado and Arizona for example can see those symptoms awake or get worse, at times requiring a quick trip to the doctor or clinic for treatment. There is no way to sugar-coat this, if you are coming from a very clean air state (Colorado races to my mind) you will feel the air quality “shock” as soon as leaving the airport. So be prepared and ready if your symptoms worsen. Of course, if your final destination is Cusco or some touristic destination like the Amazon, the air quality will be a rollercoaster for you.


Index of Polluted Cities in Latin America

What if your city is responsible for your health problems?

by cica. From Visually.

Air Pollution Traveler Mask

The best way to avoid any problems with air pollution is to wear a protective air pollution mask. Just carry the mask with you, most days you will not need it, but maybe that one day that you decide to visit Historic Lima Center and the smog starts to make you feel dizzy, you will be prepared. You can choose within a lot of magnificent designs as well as the always popular black.

Air Pullution Videos from Lima Peru (2015)

Other Sources

Here, in Peru, we know how deadly this air-borne plague can be. Our capital, Lima, is one of the most polluted cities in Latin America. Poor fuel, old buses and the city’s geography – nestled between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean – combine to make the air foul.

  1. Excellent quote and article describing the pollution problem in Lima, Peru. You can read more about it here:
  2. You can discover the best places to stay in Lima if you want to avoid most of the pollution:
  3. Read what to do in case of an asthma attack while visiting Lima, Peru:


I don’t have any first hand experience with any of the allergy treatment centers in Lima. I only had good experiences in clinics so this will be a challenge for readers with any experience about this subject to comment in the blog.

If you like the new updated article, please don’t forget to share this article on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you.

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  1. AB
    August 31, 2011

    I travel to Lima 4-6 times a year, and my underlying asthma flares every time I go. Between the constant cold, grey, damp climate, and the countless buses belching smoke, the pollution is trapped low. It makes for a cumulative wheezing feeling after a couple days. Unfortunately I don’t see any real improvements or changes coming soon, as the primary mode of transportation with this enormous city is the huge barrage of buses and taxis, in lieu of a real, and efficient public transportation system.

    • August 31, 2011

      Yes, unless the powers to be make some changes to control the traffic in Lima it will be impossible to get rid of the smoke and pollution. Thanks for your comment AB.

  2. scott
    April 15, 2012

    I started getting a persistant cough when i was in Lima for a few weeks in 2010. I have experience in air pollution and I’m thinkng about setting up an air monitoring site in Zarate.

  3. Mackenzie
    March 17, 2015

    I am doing a school project on Peru and all I can say is this helped me tons and I just wanted to thank you for putting it here for me to be able to get to it was so helpful
    THANKS!!! 🙂

    • Anonymous
      June 1, 2018

      Ok, guys I live in Lima, I’m peruvian and it isn’t really that bad. I’ve never had any lung problems or anything, and this really isn’t a prime concern for us at all. This article really is blowing it out of proportion. It might affect you if you come from other places and the air quality change is HUGE. But aside from that there really shouldn’t be much of a problem. You don’t see people walking around with masks at all.

      • May 10, 2019

        Yes, that was key… You live in Lima. Believe me, there is no such air pollution in places like Denver, San Francisco, or Miami, not to mention Europe. Travelers from those places will notice some problems breathing the first days. But is true, is not as bad as before. Peru is going through good economic times and many many people had upgraded their vehicles. Mass transportation remains an issue though.

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