University students and residents surrounding the University of Santo Tomas campus in Espana, Manila now have a way to check, before heading outdoors, the real-time air pollution situation in their area, thanks to an Air Quality Monitoring System (AQMS) that was installed in the campus on Monday, November 14.

The machine, called Grimm EDM365 environmental dust monitor, can be found on top of the campus’s CCTV server structure located in front of Plaza Intramuros.

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

The Germany-made machine accurately reads and records pollutant levels in the air from dust, soot and hazardous particulate matter (PM) 10 and 2.5, the latter being small enough to directly enter the gas exchanges of the lungs, causing detrimental health impacts like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other respiratory and heart ailments when inhaled over time.

The unit’s ability to measure data meets the equivalent global accuracy standards for EN12341 & EN14907 and US-EPA, GOST R. It uses the World Health Organization benchmark 25 ug/m3 air quality guideline value.

Making an invisible killer visible

Rotary Club of Makati’s successful installation of the air pollution monitoring unit in UST Espana is only one part of an entire process that seeks to make the invisible killer that is air pollution, visible to the public eye.

Scientific data collected from the machine’s readings are transmitted by GPRS to a data centre hosted by the University of the Philippines Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology for interpretation, led by DOST scientist Dr. Mylene Cayetano, Ph.D.

Air pollution reports could get too technical for the public to understand. In answer to this, the Rotary Club of Makati presents the data through the interactive website Airtoday.ph which uses a cartoon character and color-coded alert levels that range from very poor, poor, good to very good, to report air pollution levels real-time.

A screenshot of Airtoday.ph chart presenting real-time reading of air quality in EDSA Munoz at 6AM November 22, 2016.

By visiting Airtoday.ph, the public can click on locations where monitoring stations are already installed to know the real-time air quality report in these locations, and how the air quality could affect their health.

In addition to the UST Espana station, the AQMS has been installed in EDSA Munoz, Ayala Avenue Makati and the Lung Center of the Philippines sites.

The public can also download the Airtoday.ph app from GooglePlay or AppStore for their Android or iOS devices, allowing them to easily tap on their smartphones for the latest air pollution readings.

The public can also catch social media alerts on air pollution posted through the Airtoday.ph Facebook page.

The Air Quality Monitoring System is a public service project by the Rotary Club of Makati. Launched on March 12 this year on the occasion of its 50th chapter anniversary, the Club, through its then President and now AQMS project chair Mr. Eddie H. Yap, pushed for the project to help raise awareness on the danger of prolonged exposure to air pollutants.

“Air pollution is a serious, global health hazard which Filipinos should care about. The World Health Organization reported that in 2012, 7 million people died prematurely as a result of air pollution exposure. Poor air quality is particularly affecting Southeast Asian nations and so raising awareness on the issue should be high in the public health agenda,” Mr Yap said.

Activating the air monitoring station in UST resulted from the collaboration amongst UST, RCM and SteelAsia Manufacturing Corporation, with the university providing rent-free location to house the air pollution monitoring machine, and RCM facilitating the installation, regular monitoring and periodic maintenance of the machine on site through its technical partner, Guill-Bern Corporation Philippines.

The arrangement between UST and RC Makati is officially stated within the Memorandum of Agreement both parties signed on October 12.

Meanwhile, the acquisition of the multi-million-peso machine was through a donation RC Makati secured from SteelAsia Corporation through its president, Ben Yao. SteelAsia is the flagship steel company in the Philippines, serving the country with two million tons of rebar per year.

“We echo the call of the World Health Organization that for people to really be healthy, they should breathe clean air from their first breath to their last,” Mr. Yap said on the importance of the project.