Breathing Metro Manila air now risky–DOH
Manila, Philippines—Breathing has become risky in Metro Manila.
The Department of Health (DOH) has warned of a higher incidence of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in the summer caused by the worsening air pollution in the metropolis.
At a press conference on Saturday, Health Secretary Enrique Ona lamented that air pollution was an important issue often overlooked. “It is an on-and-off topic that is often forgotten,” he said.
Most NCDs, such as allergies, acute respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), cancer and cardiovascular diseases, are attributable to air pollution.
“There is a misconception that heart disease, cancer, pulmonary diseases are illnesses exclusive to the rich,” he said, stressing that attention must be called to the unhealthy effects of the constant exposure of the public, particularly pedestrians and those who work on the streets, to air pollution.
Ona pointed out that in the summer, people tend to travel more and thus contribute to air pollution.
Based on the 2006 National Emission Inventory of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), 65 percent of air pollution comes from vehicles while 21 percent each comes from stationary sources, such as factories and waste burning.
Ona stressed that apart from contributing to air pollution, smoking was another primary cause of NCDs.
He revealed that of the top 10 leading causes of mortality in 2008, three were NCDs related to air pollution such as chronic lower respiratory diseases, heart disease and pneumonia, adding that 200,000 Filipinos die annually from noncommunicable diseases.
Ona likewise cited the economic impact of air pollution-caused diseases based on a 2006 Philippine Environment Monitor by the World Bank.
He pointed out that based on the study, P52 million was lost due to reduced work days of employees afflicted with acute lower respiratory infection/pneumonia, COPD and cardiovascular diseases. The study also found that P910 million was spent on hospitalization and medical expenses for the treatment of NCDs.
“I am sure it is worse today,” he said.
Philippine Medical Association (PMA) Manila governor Dr. Leo Olarte, who attended the press conference, put it simply: “Air pollution kills.” He pointed out that smoke emissions from passenger utility vehicles and the smog in the country’s capital were terrible.
“I hope smokers can be told to quit or if they do smoke, to keep the habit inside their rooms or in the privacy of their homes and not in public,” Olarte said.
Ona said that air pollution was something that the Clean Air Summit to be held on Feb. 29 hopes to finally address.
“The Clean Air Summit will delve more on making sure that people understand that air pollution is a significant health issue, just as breathing is very basic and important to us,” he said.
The summit, with the theme “Usok Mo, Buhay Ko (Your Smoke, My Life) Clean Air Summit for Metro Manila,” will be attended by various government agencies, the PMA and representatives from the transportation sector in order to come up with solutions aimed at drawing attention to the adverse effects of exposure to air pollution.
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