2018 New Year’s eve air pollution significantly reduced, but first hour still ‘hazardous’

By: Begie Perdigones and Paul Losaria

With the nationwide ban on firecrackers through President Duterte’s Executive Order No. 28, Metro Manila’s almost 13 million residents still succumbed to “hazardous” air during the first hour of 2018.

The hazardous levels were registered in the website and application that runs a 24/7 air quality information system for Metro Manila. Between 8:00 PM on Sunday, December 31, 2017 to 7:00 AM on Monday, January 1, 2018, the air quality index ranged between “poor” and “hazardous” indicating the most polluted hours in the metro, earlier and longer compared to that of the previous year which only started at 11:00 PM of December 31, 2016 to 5:00 AM of January 1, 2017. As reminded by World Health Organization (WHO), exposure to Particulate Matter ( PM) concentrations that reach high levels even for just a short period of time could already affect the human respiratory system. charts (Figures 1-3) show PM concentrations that started to increase gradually as early as 8:00 PM and drastically at 11:00 PM of December 31, 2017, before it spiked at 12:00 AM of January 1, 2018 (Figure 4). The highest pollution level of PM2.5, 138 micrograms per cubic meter of air (ug/m3) was recorded at UST España. On the other hand, Ayala Avenue (Makati) had the highest PM10 concentration which spiked to 147 ug/m3. Both stations registered lower peak concentrations, about 35 and 44 percent decrease from previous year’s 212 ug/m3 and 264 ug/m3, but still way beyond the air quality guidelines of WHO for 24-hr average of PM2.5 (25 μg/m3) and PM10 (50 μg/m3), almost six and three times more. Meanwhile, EDSA Muñoz showed higher maximum hourly levels of PM2.5, 98 μg/m3 and PM10, 121 μg/m3, which also exceeded the WHO air quality guidelines.

PM concentrations significantly declined at around 4:00 in the morning of January 1, 2018 but still maintained “poor” air quality (Figure 5) which only changed to “moderate” at 8:00AM, at least for Ayala Avenue (Makati) and EDSA Muñoz. However, the decrease at UST España was very notable as PM levels rapidly dropped after peaking during midnight, “moderate” AQI rating was reached earlier, at 5:00 in the morning.

Metro Manila experienced a relatively cleaner air as concentrations were already within the WHO air quality guidelines, between 11:00 AM and 12 PM, all 3 stations eventually reached “good” and “very good” air quality (Figure 6).

“The ban on firecrackers is a step towards reducing the levels of air pollution every NYE. In fact, the reduction of pollution from 2017 NYE is evidence enough of its effectiveness; I hope the public will comply every year”, said Dr. Mylene G. Cayetano of UP Diliman- Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology who leads the interpretation of air quality data for RC Makati’s AQMS. The lower boundary layer at nighttime due to lower temperature which traps the pollutants, and relatively calm weather contributed to the trend of PM levels and slow dispersion of pollutants. Though New Year’s Eve episodic pollution is just transient, RC Makati’s former President, Eddie H. Yap pointed out that “Air pollution is a serious public health hazard affecting all sectors of society and all sources, particularly excessive vehicle exhaust emission, must be properly curtailed.”

Air pollution levels during New Year’s Eve raise concerns from both the Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Together with civil society organizations, they stand firm in calling for a ban on firecrackers and fireworks. The clamour is granted last June 20, 2017 as President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Executive Order No. 28 which aims to regulate the use of firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices. It states that “the use of firecrackers shall henceforth be confined to community fireworks display”. Though its implementation is primarily geared on minimizing the risk of injuries and casualties, many hope that this would also contribute to a significant decrease in concentrations of PM during and after the event. It is not a total firework ban so, it is still expected that there would be a surge in air pollution level during and after the New Year’s revelries.

As defined by US EPA, PM is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets suspended in the air. PM with aerodynamic diameter of 10 microns or less (PM10) and fine particles which cause smog, with diameter of 2.5 microns or less (PM2.5) are harmful to human health since they could penetrate deep into the lungs, causing respiratory and cardiovascular diseases upon inhalation. Thus, PM concentration is an important indicator of ambient air quality. Moreover, unknown to many, firecrackers and fireworks are contributors to PM emissions.

Rotary Club of Makati has been monitoring the real-time 24/7 PM concentrations in μg/m3 through air quality monitoring system (AQMS) since 2015. Record of spikes in PM concentrations, a common indicator of air pollution, from four strategic locations in Metro Manila (Ayala Avenue, Makati, EDSA Muñoz, UST España, and Lung Center of the Philippines) are available in colored index with corresponding precautionary advice depending on the severity of air pollution, which could be accessed via Rotary Club of Makati’s AQMS website and free mobile application,

With different government agencies and non-government organizations supporting the regulated, controlled use of firecrackers, concerned officials also encouraged the public to help in reducing the amount of the episodic air pollution by resorting to playing loud music or using horns, pots, cans attached to vehicles, and other noisemakers instead of setting off firecrackers as the midnight strikes to merrily welcome the next New Years.



For more information on, Contact: Pres. Junjun Dayrit and Past Pres. Eddie Yap, Rotary Club of Makati

telephone no:899-7863 to 65

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Begie Perdigones and Paul Losaria are Master of Science students in the Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology (IESM) in UP Diliman. Their interest is on the studies of air pollution in Metro Manila, and are being mentored by Dr. Mylene G. Cayetano. For technical inquiries, you may email


Figure 1: chart of PM2.5 before, during and after NYE in UST España station.

Figure 2: chart of PM2.5 before, during and after NYE in Ayala Avenue, Makati station.

Figure 3: chart of PM2.5 before, during and after NYE in EDSA Muñoz station.

Figure 4: Very Poor to Hazardous welcome the 2018 in Metro Manila, 12 midnight of January 1.

Figure 5: PM concentrations significantly declined at around 4:00 in the morning of January 1, 2018 but still maintained “poor” air quality in EDSA Muñoz and UST, while maintained at ‘Hazardous’ levels in Ayala.

Figure 6: Good to Very Good air quality in all 3 stations (Ayala Avenue, Makati, EDSA Muñoz, UST España) at 12:00 PM of January 1, 2018.


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.


Get real-time air quality updates from A Rotary Makati public service.
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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 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: chart for EDSA Munoz shows elevated readings of PM 2.5 and PM 10 as of 8AM December 16, 2016. 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 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 A Rotary Makati public service.
Download the iOS and Android apps for free:
iOS: search ‘’ on iTunes

Follow on Twitter @AirtodayPH or Like the Official Facebook Page