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Mexico City declares air pollution alert as smoke blankets capital

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Wednesday, May 15th, 2019

Courtesy : Reuters

MEXICO –  Authorities declared an environmental emergency on Tuesday (May 14) for metropolitan Mexico City, one of the world’s most populous megalopolises, as smoke from nearby wildfires pushed pollution to levels deemed potentially harmful to human health.

Environmental authorities advised residents to avoid outdoor activities and exercise, remain indoors with windows and doors shut, and for especially sensitive groups, including infants, the elderly and sick, stay at home.

The city’s Environmental Commission of the Megalopolis came under pressure to act after visibility in the city began dropping sharply last week due to ash and smoke in the air.

Dry weather has played a role in a spate of fires around the city.

Fine particulate matter known as PM2.5 hit 158 micrograms per cubic metre of air at the Nezahualcoyotl measuring station at 5 a.m.

The World Health Organisation recommends a daily mean air quality guideline below 25. Annual averages above that amount are associated with higher long-term mortality risks.

Mexico City’s air, once infamously lethal, saw a steady improvement through the late 1990s. In recent years however, there have been renewed signs of deterioration.

The environmental authority also asked residents and businesses to do their part in helping to reduce emissions, such as by using cars less, while authorities fight the numerous blazes raging in Mexico City and surrounding states. (REUTERS)

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Scientist calls for action as China’s dirty air reaches Burgos, Ilocos Norte

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Monday, July 15th, 2019

A Factory in China at Yangtze River. (Photo by Wikimedia user, High Contrast)

MANILA, Philippines – A Filipino environmental scientist discovered that there is dirty air prevailing over Burgos, Ilocos Norte that comes from China and South Korea.

Dr. Gerry Bagtasa of the University of the Philippines Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology collected air samples from 2015 to 2017 to determine whether fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) other than those native in the Philippines are affecting the area.

“Una naming ine-expect na manggagaling siya sa Taiwan kasi malapit lang ang Taiwan. (We expect the air to come from Taiwan as Taiwan is near to us.) It’s just 500 km. away,” explained Bagtasa.

“Pero after two years of measurement, ang nakita natin nanggagaling pala siya sa (we discovered that the air originated from) further north which is nasa Northern East Asia,” he said.

They discovered that the air coming from China and South Korea contains pollutants.

Fine particulate matter is an air pollutant so tiny that it can penetrate human respiratory airways and even to the deepest part of the lungs and other organs.

“May mga PM2.5 na hindi naman masama tulad ng asin. May mga asin na pinong-pino na pwede nating malanghap pag nasa beach tayo. Ok lang iyon, (There are PM2.5 that are not harmful like salt. There are fine salt that we inhale when we go to the beach. That’s okay),” Bagtasa said.

“May mga PM2.5 like iyong usok ng tambutso ng bus. PM2.5 din iyon (pero) masama naman siya pag nalanghap natin, (There are PM2.5 that come from bus exhaust. That’s also PM2.5 but harmful when inhaled),” he added.

According to Dr. Bagtasa, pollution from other countries can be determined through the metals present in the air.

They decided to choose Burgos because the area usually has clean air quality during normal weather.

Based on the result of their study, the level of pollution in the area is still below critical at 20 micrograms per cubic meter as compared to that in Metro Manila which is at 30 to 50 micrograms per cubic meter.

This level, according to Dr. Bagtasa, is still within the standards of air quality in the Philippines which sets 50 micrograms per cubic meter as the highest pollution rate.

But based on the World Health Organization (WHO), the air is already harmful to human health when the particulate matter exceeds 25 micrograms per cubic meter.

The environmental scientist explained that when the level of particulate matter reaches 25 micrograms per cubic meter, the first to suffer are those with pre-existing ailments. Higher than that level, he added, means harm would be massive as more people will be affected.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is now validating the result of the study for confirmation.

Dr. Bagtasa said they collected the samples every after four months, specifically when the northeast monsoon or amihan was prevalent.

The expert noted that it takes three days for the air from northeast Asia to reach the Philippines.

“Mayroon din kaming measurement ng Habagat at tuwing habagat napakalinis ng hangin doon. So yung pagsukat nila, I think nagsusukat sila sa same location, habagat ngayon, ang mangyayari maba-validate yung habagat measurements from before, (We also have measurement for habagat and during habagat, the air is clean. I think they do the measurement on the same location. Habagat is prevailing now which will validate our habagat measurements from before,)” Bagtasa said.

Bagtasa explained that the result can be used to aid policy makers that’s why the group is calling for more extensive study on the prevalence of air pollution across the globe.

“It’s a global problem at ang solution diyan, i-measure natin globally. Saan ba yung mga apektado? Saan ba yung hindi? (the solution would be to measure it globally. What areas are affected? What areas are not affected?)” Dr. Bagtasa said.

“From there, pwede tayong gumawa ng mga hakbang tulad ng pagbawas ng emission na nakakadagdag dito sa mga pullutants na ito, (we could provide steps [to alleviate pollution] like reduce the emissions that add to the pollutants [in the air],” he concluded. – with details from Rey Pelayo

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Smog-ridden Mexico City suspends school classes due to pollution

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, May 17th, 2019

Courtesy : Reuters

Mexico’s government ordered schools in and around Mexico City to be closed on Thursday (May 16) in an extraordinary step taken due to elevated levels of pollution in the smog-wreathed capital.

The education ministry said in a statement on Wednesday (May 15) that the measure applies to public and private schools in the Mexico City metropolitan area, which is home to well over 20 million people. It recommended that children avoid exercise, remain indoors and avoid using contact lenses.

Two of the city’s principal seats of higher learning, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the National Polytechnic Institute, also said they would suspend classes in the metropolitan area on Thursday due to the pollution.

On Tuesday (May 14) the city’s authorities declared an environmental emergency. They have come under pressure to act due to reduced visibility caused by smoke and ash in the air during an extended dry spell.

“The increase in the temperature will worsen air pollution in cities because the chemical that pollution carries is dependent on the temperature. A prediction that is materialising is that there are an increasing numbers of forest fires because there is more drought, higher temperatures,” said the Environmental Consultant for the Mexico City Government.

“We have already seen this in the United States in California. We’ve had a very clear example of this in recent years,” it added.

Smoke from nearby wildfires has pushed pollution to levels deemed potentially harmful to human health.

“There are winds over Mexico City that are bringing with them particles that are setting off fires in different areas of the metropolitan area of the Mexico City valley area. Also, we’ve been informed that hopefully, this changes by the end of the week,” said Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum.

“I have a one-and-a-half year old baby and I am looking to protect myself from getting sick, so as not to have the medical expenses and from feeling bad. It (mouth mask) is more preventative and for my baby,” said Pamela Barajas, a local resident.

“As citizens there are issues that we don’t know about, for example, with the particles (in the air) that are affecting breathing. We are affected because we suddenly feel that our eyes and nasal passages are irritated so in this respect it is alarming. And for children, there was a child that got a haemorrhage (from the pollution). So, I want to think that this (school closure) is because of the pollution and heatwave, combined with the heatwave it (pollution) is a more serious problem,” said Natividad Malpica, a local resident.

The Federal Environment Department said Wednesday that 3,800 firefighters are combating an average of about 100 fires a day in brush, scrub, agricultural and forest land throughout the country. Fire risk is highest in the spring for much of Mexico because the summer rainy season has not yet started. (REUTERS)

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Residents advised to wear mask as air quality reaches ‘unhealthy’ level in Bangkok

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

Smog in Bangkok skyline on January 14, 2019 | Reuters

BANGKOK, Thailand – Thailand’s Department of Pollution Control has warned residents in Bangkok to wear mask due to high level of hazardous dust particles trapped in stagnant air.

The level of fine particulate matter or PM2.5 exceeded the safe level of 50 micrograms per cubic meter in many areas of greater Bangkok as of Monday (January 14).

PM 2.5 is a mixture of liquid droplets and solid particles that can include dust, soot and smoke.

It is one of the main pollutants included in measuring the Air Quality Index (AQI).

When inhaled, it can damage the human’s respiratory system.

It can also damage the environment by increasing acidity in the soil and bodies of water.

As of Tuesday (January 15), Bangkok’s AQI is at 168 or ‘unhealthy’, based on data from World Air Quality Index Project in its website aqicn.org which measures AQI in cities worldwide.

Water cannons were being used on Monday to clean the air and streets.

Thai authorities, meanwhile, handed out masks in an effort to combat air pollution.

The level of hazardous dust particles known as PM 2.5 has exceeded the safe level in 30 of 50 Bangkok’s districts for days, Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang told reporters at a news conference on Monday.

“People are saying this is the wrong solution to fix the root causes, and we have to admit that it is right, but we need to start now. I am asking for help from Bangkok residents to work on it together.”

Director General Pralong Dumrongthai of the Department of Pollution Control says diesel fumes from cars contribute 50 to 60 percent of the pollution while burning rubbish and crops attributed about 35 percent.

Any level above 150 is considered unhealthy and Bangkok ranked in the top 10 of polluted cities worldwide on Monday.

The government has banned large trucks from entering downtown Bangkok during rush hours, while police have vowed to enforce the law on emission controls. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Reuters)

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