Ozone events in South America might be triggered by increasing air temperatures and dry conditions, leading to vulnerable population exposure. The current air quality standards and attention levels in São Paulo state, Brazil, are 40% higher and 25% higher, respectively, than the limits recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). We simulated an extreme ozone event in the São Paulo megacity using the Weather Research and Forecast/Chemistry model during an extreme event characterized by positive anomalies of air temperature and solar radiation. Results were evaluated using the different air quality limits from São Paulo state and the WHO, also with socioeconomic vulnerability data from the Brazilian census and cost analysis for the public health system from the extreme episode. More than 3 million people in vulnerability conditions, such as low income and families with an above-average percentage of children, live in areas where ozone concentrations exceeded the attention levels of the WHO during the episode, which is ignored by the lenient SP state environmental laws. WHO air quality guidelines must be adopted urgently in developing nations in order to provide a more accurate basis for cost analysis and population exposure, particularly the for vulnerable population groups.
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