January 6, 2017
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has expressed strong support on the proposal of the Department of Health (DOH) to have a nationwide ban on firecrackers.
This was after air pollution levels in Metro Manila shoot up again during the New Year revelry.
In a press briefing at the DENR central office in Quezon City on Wednesday, DENR Undersecretary Arturo Valdez said the agency is supportive of a law that will ban firecrackers since this will benefit the environment, particularly in terms of reducing air pollution.
He said the fumes from firecrackers only add up to the air pollution load of Metro Manila.
“This was precisely the reason why the DENR has been supportive of the proposed ban on firecrackers and pyrotechnics display,” Valdez said.
“The DENR supports all efforts to reduce the use of firecrackers during the New Year’s Eve celebration as it significantly affects the air pollution situation in the country,” he added.
He said fireworks emit some toxic chemicals similar with smoke-belching vehicles that significantly increase the level of harmful gases and particulates in the atmosphere.
According to Jacqueline Caancan, assistant director of the DENR-Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), higher pollution levels were recorded in major cities of Metro Manila when revelers welcomed the start of the new year last Sunday compared to that of 2016.
Based on the data gathered from the various air quality monitoring stations in the metropolis, she said the air pollution measuring station at the De La Salle University in Taft, Manila recorded the highest readings of particulate matter of 2.5 microns in diameter or PM2.5 during the New Year’s festivities.
She noted that the presence of PM2.5 in the area was measured at 448 micrograms per normal cubic meter (ug/Ncm) on midnight of January 1, 2017.
It was at 385 ug/Ncm last year.
Caancan said the air monitoring station located in Parañaque City was next, with PM2.5 level reaching a reading of 433 ug/Ncm.
A year ago, it was only at 307 ug/Ncm.
She noted that pollution levels in the cities of Valenzuela, Muntinlupa, and Taguig, also spiked at 285, 175, and 148 ug/Ncm, respectively.
At 2 a.m. of the same day, Caancan said the monitoring stations in Pasig City and the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City recorded PM2.5 levels of 397 and 369 ug/Ncm, respectively.
She noted that the PM2.5 levels in these cities already fall under the category of “extremely dangerous” since the considered safe level of PM2.5 is not more than 50 ug/Ncm.
“This means it is no longer deemed safe to go outside without wearing a face mask,” she said.
The DENR-EMB regularly monitors fine particulates like PM2.5 and other pollutants present in the air.
Caancan said particulate matter pollution consists of very small liquid and solid particles floating in the air are small enough to be inhaled and traveled deeper into the lungs and evade the respiratory system’s natural defenses.
“Experts have advised that particles in PM2.5 are able to travel deeply into a person’s respiratory tract and can cause short-term health effects and worsen medical conditions of people with asthma or heart disease,” she noted.
Citing the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO), she said air pollution accounts for one in eight deaths worldwide – approximately seven million deaths in 2012.
Caancan said the findings doubled previous estimates from just a few years ago in 2008.
She said the WHO now characterizes air pollution as “the world’s largest single environmental health risk.”
Meanwhile, Valdez said the high pollution levels in the metropolis would likely normalize in a week, “depending on the weather and winds.”
He noted that rains and strong winds could help dissipate the toxic gases in the air.
The DOH is currently drafting an executive order prohibiting the individual and residential use of firecrackers.
In its draft executive order, it requires local governments to designate a safe area for a community fireworks display.
A safety officer will also be assigned and trained by the Bureau of Fire Protection to supervise this. – MBL