Are we breathing clean air in Metro Manila?

Monday, November 11, 2019 11:09 PM    Views : 141by:BusinessMirror

This was the question raised by Dr. Preciosa Corazon Pabroa, a member of the Department of Science and Technology-National Research Council of the Philippines (DOST-NRCP), when she presented her study during the recent National Research and Development Conference. 

In her answer to the question, Pabroa said: “The air quality in Metro Manila is bad.” This was based on the application of Nuclear Analytical Techniques (NATs) and receptor modeling. 

But she said we can still breathe clean air if everyone does his or her own share by participating in the pollution prevention programs of the government. 

To emphasize the importance of clean air, Pabroa added that humans could survive three weeks without food, three days without water, but only three minutes without air.

Air particulate pollution affects health—respiratory and cardiovascular functions—environment and contributes to climate change. 

The big problem is, air pollutants can come from natural or anthropogenic or man-made sources. One thing is sure—transportation vehicles are major sources of air pollution in Metro Manila. The mix-up in the air of the variety of air pollution sources, however, makes it impossible to simply collect and weigh the air particulates. 

Importance of air

Particulate matter (PM) is any type of solid particles in the air in the form of smoke, dust and vapors which are produced by many sources, including burning of diesel fuels by vehicles, fossil fuels, mixing and application of fertilizers and pesticides, road construction, industrial processes and operation of woodstoves.  

PM10, or coarse particles, are of less concern but they can irritate a person’s eyes, nose and throat. Dust and smoke are visible examples of PM10.

On the other hand, PM2.5, or fine particles, pose the greatest health risk. These fine particles can get deep into lungs and some may even get into the bloodstream and can only be seen underneath a microscope.

According to the DENR-Environment Management Bureau, the agency responsible for the implementation and enforcement of Republic Act 8749, or as the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999, some microscopic particles in the air can be breathed into the lungs causing increased respiratory disease and lung damage.

RA 8749 also aims to raise awareness about pollution prevention through programs, such as “Linis/Ligtas Hangin,” together with “Bantay Tambutso, Bantay Tsimnea” and “Bantay Sunog.” It imposes regulatory standards to sources of pollution, such as factories and power plants. 

The DOST, together with DENR, the Departments of Transportation and Communications, Trade and Industry, and the Energy, and others help in implementing the RA 8749.

Make way for NATs

Pabroa of the DOST-Philippine Nuclear Research Institute that conducts air-pollution source apportionment activities, studied how NATs generate multi-element data for use in receptor modeling to unravel the real score of air particulate pollution in the air we breathe.

NATs are well-suited for airborne particulate matter research providing the multi-element data for use in air pollution, while the source apportionment studies (receptor modeling) enables better understanding of the sources of particulate pollution in critical cities or areas.

Pabroa’s study is titled, “Air Particulate Matter: Characterization by Elemental and Isotopic Fingerprinting of Organic and Inorganic Pollution Sources and Possible Mitigation Measures by Electron Beam Technology.” 

In simple terms, it provides basic data for better air quality management and the environmental authorities and policy-makers with key information necessary for implementation and review of the effectiveness of policy-level changes intended to air pollution reduction initiative of the government. 

In her research, she conducted source apportionment studies in critical areas, such as in highly industrialized areas (North Harbor and Valenzuela City) and in a prime tourist spot (Boracay Island). This is an effort to provide science-based information on local air particulate pollution problem in these sites. 

Policy forum

For policy-makers to better appreciate the science-based information generated by the project, the DOST-NRCP will conduct a policy forum to come up with efficient policy recommendations. The Luzon Policy Forum with the theme “Unraveling Air Particulate Pollution Effects in the Air we Breathe” will be held on November 11, at the DOST-PNRI, Diliman, Quezon City.

The forum participants include representatives from various departments of the government and local government units.


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