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.
Download the iOS and Android apps for free:
iOS: search ‘’ on iTunes

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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