Oct. 21 - Sao Paulo, host city of the first World Cup soccer match next year, has a major pollution problem. A recent study says air pollution in the southern Brazilian city causes three times more deaths than breast cancer or traffic accidents and costs the state US$160 million per year. Tara Cleary reports.
The traffic in Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city, is not only choking its streets - according to a new study, it's also choking its residents. The research by the Institute of Health and Sustainability, says that in 2011 more than four and a half thousand residents died from air pollution-related causes. SOUNDBITE: EVANGELINA VORMITTAG, DIRECTOR OF INSTITUTE OF HEALTH AND SUSTAINABILITY, SAYING (Portuguese): "That's three times the deaths from traffic accidents and three time the deaths from breast cancer. The health problems this presents are very serious." Evangelina Vormittag is the Institute's director. She says that the entire state of Sao Paulo, comprising more than 40 million inhabitants, lost almost 100,000 people in a five-year period to air pollution-linked diseases. And treating these illnesses costs about $160 million US dollars a year. Rogerio de Souza's son is one of the city's many patients with breathing problems. SOUNDBITE: ROGERIO DE SOUZA, FATHER OF BOY WHO HAS PROBLEMS WITH BRONCHITIS, SAYING (Portuguese): "He has problems with his respiratory system. His eyes get very red with the air. It's very difficult. For us and the children it is very difficult." Smog from traffic is being blamed. With four million vehicles on the street each day, and limited public transportation options, city officials are struggling to find solutions. And adding to the dilemma is the expected influx of thousands of visitors to the city for the 2014 World Cup. The stadium where the opening game will take place, is still under construction. Data collection centres around the city reveal that Sao Paulo's air pollution averages at between 20 and 25 micrograms per cubic meter; more than twice the level the World Health Organization considers safe. Emissions testing is compulsory only for some classes of vehicle, and not everyone cooperates. SOUNDBITE: ROGERIO DAMETO, INSPECTION ENGINEER, SAYING (Portuguese): "Look, it's terrible. Everybody has to do their part. I know it's tough and it takes time. But you can't skip out on this." Vehicle inspections in Sao Paulo have saved lives according to another recent study. And it's hoped that gradually, more data will galvanise support for action and help the citizens who need it.