Air quality charts for Ayala Avenue and UST Espana showing unusual pollution spikes from December 31, 2016. Source:

RC Makati’s air quality charts capture images of New Year’s unusual pollution spikes

Each year, dazzling fireworks that paint the night sky highlight the New Year’s revelry, but cloud people’s awareness of an ugly aftermath: Dangerous air pollution spikes.

On December 31st 2016, the Rotary Club of Makati’s air quality monitoring system (AQMS) captured dramatic images in real-time of unusual air pollution spikes from 12 midnight of December 31, 2016 to 4:00 AM of January 1, 2017.

Using a GRIMM EDM365 environmental dust point monitoring machine acquired from Germany, RC Makati’s AQMS records and reports air pollution data from four strategic locations that bracket Metro Manila: Ayala Avenue Makati, UST Espana, EDSA Munoz, and Lung Center of the Philippines.

It features real-time 24/7 recording of PM10 and PM2.5, in micrograms per cubic meter, and .on-line reporting as colored index via the website and mobile app, with corresponding precautionary advice when air pollution reaches unhealthy levels.

RC Makati’s air quality charts showed that air pollution in Metro Manila started reaching “poor” alert levels as early as 11:00 PM December 31, 2016 and spiked to “very poor” and “hazardous” levels from 12 midnight until 4:00 AM January 1, 2017.

UST Espana recorded the highest pollution levels with PM2.5 level spiking to 212 micrograms per cubic meter air (ug/m3). This exceeded World Health Organization (WHO) safe standard of 25 ug/m3   over a 24-hour mean by up to eight times.

PM10 level reached 264 ug/m — five times over WHO safe standard of 50 ug/m3    over a 24-hour mean.New Year Chart

Short-lived relief

RC Makati’s charts showed that air quality changed to moderate from around 7:00 AM January 1, 2017 and only improved to “good” at around 10:00 AM.

After the air cleared from the New Year’s fireworks, Metro Manila enjoyed “good” to “very good” air quality from around 10 AM January 1, 2017 to about 3 AM January 3, 2017 which was ideal for enjoying usual outdoor activities.

But this was a short-lived relief. Air quality decreased to “moderate” around 4 AM of January 3, 2017.

Dr. Mylene G. Cayetano, Ph.D. of the UP Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology who leads the interpretation of scientific data for RC Makati’s AQMS, said that the spike came vehicular traffic when work and classes resumed on January 3.

Because of this, Cayetano emphasized the importance of RC Makati’s real-time air monitoring system that enables the public to access air pollution data 24/7 so they can protect themselves from health hazards linked to air pollution before heading out — whenever there is a pollution event such as the New Year’s fireworks or from daily exposure to tail-pipe pollution from the metro’s roads.

“Pollution monitoring machines, whether point monitoring or long-path systems, may have the capability to record pollution data accurately but if this data is not consistently made available to the public, then the monitoring fails to serve one of its more important purposes: To warn the public of pollution spikes in real-time,” she said.

RC Makati’s past president Eddie H. Yap, who initiated and continues to champion the AQMS project, said: “If we are vigilant about keeping safe from firecracker-related injuries during the New Year, we should also be vigilant about keeping our lungs safe from air pollution, which is killing us slowly but surely”.


Image: Child Health

RC Makati’s now reports PM10 data

The Rotary Club of Makati’s Air Quality Monitoring System has expanded its reporting capability to include readings of particulate matter 10, the pollutant in the air that measures 10 micrometers or less in diameter, enabling people to do something to protect themselves from this pollutant.

Before, AQMS data was presented for PM2.5 readings or air pollutants that measure 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter. PM2.5   are also generally called fine particles.

December 22 AM Poor Ayala

A screen capture of RC Makati charts shows PM 10 and PM2.5 in Ayala Avenue Makati on December 22, 2016 at 8AM exceed World Health Organization standards.

Why does knowing about PM10 and PM2.5 matter?

Both PM10 and PM2.5   are harmful pollutants when inhaled. When PM2.5  levels in the air are above the World Health Organization standard of 25 µg/m3 over a 24-hour mean, there is nothing people can do to stay safe except to avoid exposure.

Because of their tiny size, mere exposure to air when the PM2.5 reading is above safe levels will render people vulnerable to serious respiratory and heart ailments. PM2.5  are small enough to lodge directly onto the gas exchanges of the lungs or inflame the bloodstreams in the heart.

Meanwhile, WHO’s safe standard for PM10  is 50 µg/m3 24-hour mean. When people are informed of PM10   levels exceeding this standard, they can wear a mask to breathe safe when outdoors.

Particulate matter exposure. Image: Dr. Mylene Cayetano, Ph.D.

Particulate matter exposure. Image: Dr. Mylene Cayetano, Ph.D.

The RC Makati’s Air Quality Monitoring System launched in March is a public service project aimed at raising awareness on air pollution, dubbed as humanity’s biggest killer that causes up to 7 million people to die earlier than they should globally.

The AQMS reports pollution information from four sites, including UST Espana, EDSA Munoz and Ayala Avenue Makati where RC Makati installed three environmental dust monitoring machines, and from the Lung Center of the Philippines where it has a data sharing agreement with the LCP.

“Although the machine is installed in a specific area, the reading is valid depending on the lifetime of pollution. PM2.5, for example, can travel to as far as 1000 kms, until it bumps into a surface or gets washed off by rain. Models can determine the geographical range where the measurement will be valid, and we are on our way to determining that for our AQMS stations,” explains Dr. Mylene Cayetano, Ph.D., a DOST Balik-Scientist from the UP Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology who leads data interpretation on the AQMS.

 Children most affected by air pollution

Image: Child Health

Image: Child Health

Almost one in seven of the world’s children, 300 million, live in areas with the most toxic levels of outdoor air pollution – six or more times higher than international guidelines – while 2 billion children live in areas which exceed minimum WHO guidelines, according to a major new UNICEF report, ‘Clear the Air for Children’.

“Air pollution is a major contributing factor in the deaths of around 600,000 children under five every year – and it threatens the lives and futures of millions more every day,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.

“Pollutants don’t only harm children’s developing lungs – they can actually cross the blood-brain barrier and permanently damage their developing brains – and, thus, their futures. No society can afford to ignore air pollution.”

Download the UNICEF here.

Breathe to live, not to die

RC Makati’s Mr. Eddie H. Yap, who champions the AQMS project and was president during the project’s launch, said it is RC Makati AQMS project’s aim to bring the urgent agenda of air pollution monitoring to the awareness of the general public.

“I ask our fellow Filipinos this question: Are you breathing to live, or to die? Air pollution is a silent and invisible killer, and unless the public knows about its dangers, they would not be able to take caution and protect themselves,” he said.


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