HAZE NO MORE?

By: Jhunnex Napallacan, Michelle Joy L. Padayhag October 27,2015 - 12:31 AM

Air quality back to normal, but pollutants still suspended in air

Northeast monsoon or amihan winds blew the haze away from Cebu yesterday, clearing up the sky and reducing the amount of fine particles in the air – for now, said officials.

But the public, especially those with lung and heart problems, is still encouraged to wear N95 dust masks to avoid respiratory problems.

A joint advisory by environment and health officials was issued yesterday in a press conference.

They said there was no need to panic about the haze alert issued over the weekend, the first time Cebu was declared in a state of high -haze pollutants but that caution was still needed.

Most Cebuanos were still walking around without face masks or goggles.

A security guard wears a mask while manning his post. The air quality in Metro Cebu has improved, but officials are still encouraging those with lung and heart problems to wear masks. (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

A security guard wears a mask while manning his post. The air quality in Metro Cebu has improved, but officials are still encouraging those with lung and heart problems to wear masks. (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

 

Other agencies that joined the press conference yesterday were the Department of Science and Technology, Office of Civil Defense, Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, and Provincial Health Office.

William Cuñado, regional director of the Environmental Management Bureau -7 (EMB), who issued the Saturday advisory for “everyone” to wear N95 masks and goggles said fine pollutants remain suspended in the air and could trigger asthma attacks and respiratory problems among sensitive individuals.

“It’s your option to use the N95 mask or use the ordinary approach to protect yourself (by staying indoors). There is a presence still of PM2.5 particles although they are below the standard limit.

But we still have to be careful to prevent future problems,” he said.

PM2.5 refers to fine particles like dust, dirt and smoke that measure 2.5 micrograms per cubic meter.

One speck is about 100 times thinner than a human hair.

The EMB of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the haze reaching Metro Cebu and other parts of the Visayas and Mindanao was largely due to smoke from ongoing forest fires in Indonesia, brought to the Philippines by the southwest (habagat) winds enhanced by typhoon Lando last week.

Air pollution from car exhaust and factories is another factor for reduced visibility but the EMB has yet to release results of qualitative tests for the presence of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and methane.

An EMB team left for Bohol while another left for Negros Oriental yesterday morning to check reports of haze and poor visibility there.

NORMAL

Based on EMB’s 24-hour monitoring of the air quality in Cebu, particles in the air went down yesterday to below the acceptable limit of 75 micrometers.

The reading for fine particles or PM2.5 in the province decreased to 34 micrometers in the morning and 56 micrometers in the afternoon.

This was a significant improvement from Saturday’s record of 105 micrometers and Sunday’s average of 85.70 micrometers.

Cuñado said this meant that air quality in Metro Cebu was back to normal limits yesterday, about two days after the EMB officially released an alert for “high-haze pollutants” in Metro Cebu.

“The wind transition (from habagat to amihan) reduce the presence of haze,” said Oscar Tabada, Visayas director of weather bureau Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).

Rains would help further wash out the dust.

One or two typhoons are expected in November, but for this week, Tabada said Cebu will be generally sunny to partly cloudy.

Trees can also help absorb air pollutants said DENR Regional Executive Director Isabelo Montejo.

“We can see the important role of the trees. I am encouraging you to continue to take care of them,” he said.

LATEST UPDATE

As of October 26, 2015 3:00 p.m., small dust particles or particulate matter measuring  2.5 micrometers in diameter reached an average value of 56 micrograms per Normal cubic meter (µg/Nm3).

The result is within the standard or allowable limit of 75 µg/Nm3 according to the National Ambient Air Quality Guideline Values under the RA 8749 or the Philippine Clean Air Act.

This implies that the air quality in Metro Cebu is now improving.

 

Table1
“With the new ambient air monitoring result, it is now up to each individual whether to use or not the recommended N95 dust mask and industrial goggles. An average PM2.5 concentration of 56 µg/Nm3  indicates that the air quality got better,” said EMB-7 Director William Cuñado.

However, the EMB-7 continues to recommend the use of N95 dust mask and goggles especially those with heart or lung diseases, the children and older adults.

Though the air quality has improved, continuous inhalation and exposure even to smaller concentrations of particles may result to its accumulation in the body causing health problems.

The air quality data were taken at the Roof Deck of Radisson Blu Hotel, Cebu City using the Environmental Beta Attenuation Monitor (E-BAM) equipment that monitored the pollutants in real time. This equipment costs P1.6 million.

PAGASA Visayas Director Oscar Tabada said that haze in Metro Cebu has lessened due to easterly winds.

The wind velocity as of 8 am today was 10-15 kph resulting to the dispersion of dust particles.

DENR 7 Director Isabelo Montejo emphasized the role of trees in sequestering pollutants in the air. He enjoined everyone to fully support the National Greening Program.

This morning, the bureau sent two separate teams to Bohol and Negros Oriental to monitor the ambient air quality.  Each team brought one unit of High Volume Air Quality Sampler.

The air quality data in Table 2 were taken at the Roof Deck of Radisson Blu Hotel, Cebu City using the E-BAM equipment.

Table2
Table 2 showed that the 24-hour continuous ambient air quality monitoring revealed an average value of 85.70 µg/Nm3 which exceeded the guideline value or tolerable limit of 75 µg/Nm3 for Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5.

This result implies that respiratory symptoms are possible in unusually sensitive individuals, possible aggravation of heart or lung disease in people with cardiopulmonary disease and older adults (USEPA, 2006).

People with heart or lung disease, older adults and children are the groups most at risk.

They should limit outdoor exertion.

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TAGS: Cebu, EMB-7, haze, Metro Cebu, N95 mask

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