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

Marje Pelayo   •   July 15, 2019   •   1644

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

DENR urges public to wear face masks due to air pollution from fireworks

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 1, 2020

The Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) advises the public to wear face masks due to the air pollution brought by fireworks.

According to the DENR, there is still a high level of air pollution in the surroundings even after the lighting of fireworks has died down. However, the level of air pollution during the holiday has decreased since 2016.

In Metro Manila, Mandaluyong (399 µg/m³), Las Piñas (376 µg/m³), and Pasig (367 µg/m³) have recorded the highest level of air pollution.

DENR Undersecretary Benny Entiporda said there will still be residues of firecrackers on the ground so they still advise the public to wear face masks especially those who have asthma.

“Kapag may dumaan na sasakyan aalikabok of course malalanghap pa rin ng tao iyan (When vehicles pass by, people can inhale the dusts),” he said.

The DENR also encourages establishments or groups to no longer conduct pyrotechnics show to prevent pollution.

“Would you imagine, sa maigsing panahon na pagdiriwang natin ay habang buhay na dala na po ng baga natin ito pong metals na ito? (Would you imagine that in a short span of time we would carry these metals in our lungs?),” Entiporda said.—AAC (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Sydney air pollution caused by bushfires among worst in the world

Robie de Guzman   •   November 20, 2019

Wildlife that survived a bushfire graze for food at Wollemi National Park, New South Wales (NSW), Australia, 17 November 2019. According to media reports, rising temperatures and hot winds are again expected to fan wildfires in the state next week. EPA-EFE/JEREMY PIPER AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

Sydney, Australia – The air pollution in the most populous Australian city of Sydney on Tuesday was among the 20 worst in the world due to smoke caused by fires in eastern Australia.

“#Sydney is also known as the ‘big smoke’ and is living up to the nickname today. #Bushfire smoke will slowly ease during the day, increasing tonight. A Poor air quality alert is current,” said the New South Wales Meteorology Office on Twitter.

Government data of the state, whose capital is Sydney, showed the air quality was “poor,” although in some districts of the northwest the indexes of PM2.5 particles reached 130 and PM10 reached 195.

On AirVisual, a website that measures air quality around the world, Sydney ranked 18th at 1.30 pm, three down from Shanghai, with Bangladesh’s Dhaka the worst at number one.

The smoke that Sydney woke up to was from the fires of Gospers Mountain, about 300 kilometers northwest of the city and which some 850 square kilometers of land have been burned, greater than the area occupied by the capital city of Canberra.

The impact of the smoke, which also affects the cities of Wollongong and Newcastle, is expected to worsen due to the intense heat expected in the next two days on the east coast of Australia, making conditions difficult for the more than 1,300 firefighters who have been fighting the flames for almost two weeks.

At least six people have died from the bushfires in New South Wales, the region most affected by the blazes and where since July 13, 13,000 square kilometers of land have been razed.

Likewise, the neighboring northeastern state of Queensland and the south of South Australia have been forecast for temperatures around 40 degrees Celsius, which may aggravate active fires or create new outbreaks.

The fire season in Australia varies by area and weather conditions, although blazes are generally recorded in the southern summer (between the months of December to March).

The worst fires in the country in recent decades occurred in early February 2009 in the state of Victoria and caused 173 deaths, 414 injured, and burned an area of ​​4,500 square kilometers. EFE-EPA

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Malaysia carries out cloud seeding to tame haze in administrative capital Putrajaya

Robie de Guzman   •   September 17, 2019

Malaysia carried out cloud seeding on Monday (September 16) to tame haze and control air pollution in its administrative capital Putrajaya.

Parts of Malaysia, including Putrajaya, have been reeling under an impact of heavy haze with air quality dropping to a “very unhealthy” 203 benchmark, on the Air Pollutant Index the country uses to calculate, as forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia continue to affect the air.

Malaysia carried out cloud seeding in the hope of inducing rain and also closed hundreds of schools and sent half a million face masks to Sarawak, on Borneo island, this week, as fires in Indonesia’s Sumatra and Kalimantan provinces continued to burn.

Indonesia’s neighbours have regularly complained about smog caused by its forest blazes – often started by farmers trying to clear land for palm oil and pulp plantations – though Jakarta has denied the accusation, saying forest fires had also started in other countries across the region. (Reuters)

(Production: Ebrahim Harris, Sunil Kataria)

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