Overall air quality in Rio de Janeiro is classified as “good” according to Brazil’s national air quality index. During the past year there were no critical air pollution episodes, and all parameters used to measure air pollution were within the legal limits for air quality. However, it is worth noting that air pollution may be more severe in urban and industrial areas, especially regarding ozone and particulates (PM 10 and PM 2.5).
The amount of air pollution can vary according to season, weather and wind. Travellers, especially those with health and/or respiratory issues, should follow local media outlets and official sources to ensure that air quality is at a safe level. The pollutants most likely to present health risks are particulate matter, measured in PM 10 and PM 2.5.
Water quality and bathing
Test have shown that the waters outside Rio are highly polluted. Untreated sewage and industrial waste pour into the Guanabara Bay waters on a daily basis, and garbage floating around the shore is a common sight.
Tourists visiting the city should take note that swimming at the beaches of Rio can pose a health hazard. The beaches in Guanabara Bay – primarily Flamengo and Botafogo – are as a rule too polluted for swimming, with extremely high levels of bacteria. The beaches facing the ocean are however generally cleaner.
The ocean currents at these beaches help keep the water less polluted. This includes Ipanema and Barra, as well as the famous Copacabana beach. However, at times the ocean beaches also show bacteria counts far beyond acceptable. Some local papers inform about daily beach closings, and you can also consult your hotel whether it’s safe to swim.
Be aware that ocean currents can be strong in some places. Take notice of any warnings before swimming. Sharks are present in the waters outside Brazil and several incidents have occurred in the past. The risk of becoming victim of a shark attack is however extremely small.