Shocking Air Quality in San Pedro Sula Forces Schools and Airports to Close

Last Updated: June 17, 2024By
Shocking Air Quality in San Pedro Sula Forces Schools and Airports to Close


What’s Happening in San Pedro Sula?

San Pedro Sula, the second-biggest city in Honduras, is facing some of the worst air pollution on the entire American continent. The air quality has taken a nosedive, mainly due to forest fires and the El Niño weather phenomenon. The climate crisis has also made things worse.

Dangerous Air Quality

A Swiss organization called IQAir, which monitors air quality worldwide, has declared the air in San Pedro Sula “dangerous.” This city, home to about a million people, has seen pollution levels spike to 249.1 mcg/m³ of PM2.5 particles. To put that into perspective, the World Health Organization recommends that these particles shouldn’t go over 5 mcg/m³ annually.

Government Response


Because of this hazardous air, Honduran authorities have issued the highest threat level across many areas. They are urging people to keep their windows shut and stay indoors to avoid breathing in the toxic air.

Schools Close Down

Daniel Sponda, the education secretary, announced that both public and private schools would be temporarily closed. He highlighted the “risk to the physical integrity of the educational community.” The health department has also noted a 20% rise in respiratory infections.

Health Impacts

Dr. Cristobal Bustamante from the Honduran Permanent Contingency Commission pointed out a sharp rise in respiratory emergencies, especially among kids and older adults. “We’ve also seen more cases of heart problems and worsening asthma,” he said. Bustamante warned that high pollution levels can severely damage the airways, causing everything from irritation to serious respiratory diseases.


Airport Chaos

The pollution has been so severe that planes trying to land in San Pedro Sula had to be diverted to other countries because pilots couldn’t see the runways. This led to the closure of several Honduran airports. Abraham Manun, head of operations at the city’s international airport, mentioned, “This is the first time we’ve shut down the airport due to air quality. It’s beyond our control and disrupts all flights in and out of Honduras.”

Why Is This Happening?

The El Niño phenomenon has caused extreme temperature rises and reduced rainfall, leading to droughts in areas like the “dry corridor” that stretches through Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. This year, El Niño is expected to be particularly severe, putting more people at risk.

Wildfires and Destruction

Honduras has seen a huge increase in wildfires due to the dry and hot conditions. The Forest Conservation Institute of Honduras reported 2,598 fires this year alone, destroying over 211,000 hectares of land. Even La Tigra National Park, crucial for the ecosystem near Tegucigalpa, was almost completely wiped out by fire.

The Bigger Picture

Juan José Reyes from Copeco, an early warning system, said that the pollution is a result of climate change and El Niño. “The smog stays over the cities because there’s no wind to blow it away,” he explained. Reyes warned that if environmental policies don’t change, this could become a regular issue, threatening millions in Central America.

Preparing for the Worst

Nelson Aly from the International Federation of the Red Cross added that climate-related disasters are becoming more frequent across Central America. “Climate change is pushing us into extreme weather,” he said. “We’re training our response units and getting ready for floods like the ones we’ve seen in Brazil this month.”

The situation in San Pedro Sula is a wake-up call about the impacts of climate change and how they can disrupt everyday life. With schools closing and flights being canceled, it’s clear that serious action is needed to address these environmental challenges.

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