United Nations Environment Programme Executive Director Erik Solheim. Image: UNIDO

‘Air pollution is one of the biggest killers of humanity’

The air we breathe lends life to us, but it could also be the invisible killer that is taking our breath away a little every day — without us knowing it.

United Nations Environment Programme executive director Erik Solheim said, citing World Health Organization data, that 7 million people are dying earlier than they should because of air pollution.

“Air pollution is one of the biggest killers of humanity,” he said.

“So many people from Asia are dying from stroke, asthma and other diseases. We need to move from coal into renewable energy, we need to move from vehicles running on gasoline into electric vehicles,  we need to build mass transit systems in all the big cities in Asia.  This is happening rapidly in some places,” he added.

While major Asian metropolises like Singapore are enjoying cleaner air primarily because of efficient mass transit systems, policy frameworks that make private car ownership very limiting, a fast shift to electric vehicle and other sustainable ride-sharing platforms, the Philippines still has a long way to go before it could take this path.

The country needs enabling policies from government to attract private sector investors who are willing to bet their money on the long-term for the better good, to transition to lower-emission and efficient modes of energy generation and public transportation.

Filipinos also need to change their mindsets about pegging one’s economic and social status on the personal ownership of cars.

These are important, major steps that will need engagement at the national level.

While these steps are yet to be taken, what can you do now to protect yourself from this invisible killer?

Be informed about air pollution situation before heading out!

One way to survive the health hazards brought on by air pollution is to make this invisible killer visible.

The Rotary Club of Makati through its then President Mr. Eddie H. Yap launched a public service project to help monitor air quality and raise awareness about the dangers of air pollution.

The Air Quality Monitoring System was launched on March 12 this year on the occasion of the RC Makati’s 50th founding anniversary.

The AQMS aims to bring real-time air quality monitoring data to key cities in Metro Manila and Quezon City at the initial roll out phase, with a possibility of extending to urban centers in the provinces.

In particular, the environmental dust monitoring machine called GRIMM EDM365 from Germany, measures Particulate Matter (PM) 10 and 2.5 concentrations in the air.

Currently, the RC Makati AQMS machines are installed in three locations: EDSA Munoz, Ayala Avenue Makati and recently, at the University of Santo Tomas in Espana Manila.  A data sharing partnership with Lung Center of the Philippines allows RC Makati to show the real time air pollution data at LCP as well, this brings to four the areas where RC Makati’s Air Quality Monitoring System reports data.

Rotary Club Makati’s Air Quality Monitoring System (AQMS) Station 4 in UST Espana. Image: Jimmy Kho, GBC-Phil

Rotary Club Makati’s Air Quality Monitoring System (AQMS) Station 4 in UST Espana. Image: Jimmy Kho, GBC-Phil

RC Makati funded the acquisition of the first two machines. The machines’ measurements meet the equivalent global accuracy standards for EN12341 & EN14907 and US-EPA, GOST R and uses the World Health Organization benchmark 25 ug/m3 for PM 2.5 air quality guideline value. The third machine installed at UST was secured by donation from SteelAsia Manufacturing Corporation, with UST offering rent-free location to house the machine.

Scientific data from the machine is interpreted by DOST Balik-Scientist Dr. Mylene Cayetano, Ph.D. from the University of the Philippines Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology.

“Filipinos should be asking themselves this question: ‘Am I breathing to live or to die?’ With RC Makati’s air quality monitoring system, the public can avoid exposure to high pollutants in the air if they check real-time updates before heading out,” Mr. Yap said.

Air pollution kills. Now what?

This is where getting updates on air quality monitoring comes in.

AQMS data is presented in the website Airtoday.ph which uses color coded charts and a cartoon character to tell you in simple terms whether the air quality is poor, very poor, good or very good at specific times of the day.

Here’s an example of a chart taken for EDSA Munoz at 8AM today, December 16, 2016:

Airtoday.ph chart for EDSA Munoz shows elevated readings of PM 2.5 and PM 10 as of 8AM December 16, 2016.

Airtoday.ph chart for EDSA Munoz shows elevated readings of PM 2.5 and PM 10 as of 8AM December 16, 2016.

The chart indicates that as of 8AM December 16, 2016, air quality over EDSA Munoz is poor, with PM 10 at 47 ug/m3 and PM 2.5 at 36 ug/m3.

The bar graph below where the red dotted line is indicates the World Health Organization standard for PM 2.5, which is set at 25 ug/m3.

A spike above this line indicates raised levels of PM 2.5 in the air, while levels below the line indicates low PM 2.5 presence in the air.

High concentration of PM 2.5 in the air leaves you at no defense against it – to avoid these pollutants from lodging directly onto the gas exchanges of your lungs, you simply need to avoid exposure.

Alert levels on PM 10 indicate that you can either avoid these areas or be ready with a mask or a hanky to trap these pollutants in the air.

By checking the air quality via AIrtoday.ph before you head out, you can actually spare yourself from exposure to these harmful pollutants.

“There is a need to increase the public’s awareness that air pollution kills. The data is there, if people access it and use it to guide their activities, then they stand a better chance to protect themselves against this invisible killer,” Mr. Yap concluded.

Featured image: United Nations Environment Programme executive director Erik Solheim. UNIDO

Get real-time air quality updates from Airtoday.ph. A Rotary Makati public service.
Download the iOS and Android apps for free:
iOS: search ‘airtoday.ph’ on iTunes

Follow Airtoday.ph on Twitter @AirtodayPH or Like the Official Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/RCMakAirtoday/

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