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

Marje Pelayo   •   July 15, 2019   •   1362

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

Filipino scientists recognized as among the top in Asia

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 5, 2019

Eight Filipino scientists were recognized by Asian Scientist Magazine’s as among the top scientists in Asia for the year 2019.

  • Dr. Rosalinda C. Torres of Technology Development Institute (Chemistry)
  • Dr. Marissa A. Paglicawan of Technology Development Institute (Material Science)
  • Artemio Salazar of University of the Philippines (UP) Los Baños (Agriculture)
  • Rody Sy of UP Manila (Biomedical Science)
  • Gay Jane Perez of UP Diliman (Environmental Sciences and Geology)
  • Charissa Marcaida Ferrera of UP Diliman (Life Sciences)
  • Elmer Dadios of De La Salle University’s (Engineering)
  • Ricardo Balog of University of Santo Tomas’ (Engineering)

The magazine recognizes individuals who have made a significant scientific discovery or provided leadership in academia or industry.

“Now into its fourth edition, the Asian Scientist 100: 2019 edition celebrates the success of the region’s best and brightest, highlighting their achievements across a range of scientific disciplines,” according to the magazine.—AAC

Mexico City declares air pollution alert as smoke blankets capital

Marje Pelayo   •   May 15, 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)

Magnitude 5.4 quake jolts parts of Ilocos Norte

Robie de Guzman   •   May 6, 2019

A magnitude 5.4 earthquake jolted parts of Ilocos Norte and neighboring areas on Monday (May 6), the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said.

In its bulletin, the tectonic quake struck at 10:48 a.m. with a depth of 15 kilometers. Its epicenter was located 11 kilometers east of Pagudpud town.

Varying quake intensities were felt in the following areas:

Intensity V – Pasuquin, Bacarra & Laoag City; Tuguegarao City
Intensity IV –
Paoay, Ilocos Norte
Intensity III –
Sinait & Santa, Ilocos Sur; Sudipen, La Union
Intensity II –
Baguio City

Phivolcs warned of possible aftershocks but no damage is expected.

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