Toxic air greets Metro folk in year’s first dawn
Despite stricter regulations on firecracker use, hazardous and polluted air still engulfed several cities in Metro Manila on the first day of 2020.
Data from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) showed dangerously high concentrations of particulate matter (PM), which are microscopic particles in the air that can cause serious health problems, at the peak of New Year revelries early Wednesday.
Air quality monitoring stations located across the metro recorded very high levels of both PM10 and PM2.5—particles finer than beach sand and human hair—between Tuesday midnight and 2 a.m. of Wednesday, when firecrackers and fireworks were booming in several cities.
Stations in the cities of Mandaluyong, Taguig and Caloocan recorded the highest levels of PM10, according to the DENR data.
The Mandaluyong station, located by the Plaza Hardin Compound in Barangay Addition Hills, monitored a whopping 497 micrograms per normal cubic meter of air (ug/Ncm), while the station by the Technical University of the Philippines in Taguig registered 355 ug/Ncm.
Healthy to very unhealthy
Based on the air quality index for PM10, Mandaluyong’s air during the peak of the New Year revelry turned “hazardous,” while Taguig’s air was considered “very unhealthy.”The Caloocan station, which can be found by the city hall compound, recorded 332 ug/Ncm, classified as “unhealthy.”
Meanwhile, monitoring stations in Pateros, Las Piñas and Pasig monitored the highest concentrations of the smaller and deadlier PM2.5, which can easily enter the nose and throat and make its way to the lungs and even the circulatory system.
Pateros’ station, located by the Pateros Elementary School Compound, registered 399 ug/Ncm, while stations in Las Piñas and Pasig monitored 376 ug/Ncm and 367 ug/Ncm, respectively.
Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said the high concentrations recorded in Pateros, metro’s lone municipality, may have been due to the huge fireworks celebration in neighboring Taguig City.
Despite these alarming figures, however, data from DENR still cannot paint a full picture of the smoke and haze that enveloped the metropolis in the wee hours of the new year, since a majority of the air quality monitoring stations were unable to collect data, some for a number of years already.
Less smoke, less trash
Only nine out of 17 monitoring stations in Metro Manila were functioning to monitor PM10 levels. For PM2.5, only seven stations were able to monitor the particulate concentrations.
While some had broken down, others fell into disuse.
While the levels of air quality reached unhealthy levels during the ringing in of the new year, the air in some areas gradually improved as the day passed, according to a separate monitoring by AirToday.ph.
The project monitors air quality through two stations in Quezon City.In Edsa Muñoz, air quality was considered “very poor” by Tuesday midnight, but improved to “moderate” by 2 a.m. of Wednesday.
“Very poor” air quality was also recorded near LCP, which turned better to “moderate” by 3 a.m.
Based on AirToday.ph data, Quezon City enjoyed relatively cleaner air in the morning towards the afternoon.
Despite the polluted air in the start of 2020, Antiporda said this year’s levels still marked significant improvement from 2016.
“Compared to the past few years, even just visually, you can see the difference,” he said in a press briefing on Wednesday. “There is less smoke and also less trash from firecrackers on the streets.”
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