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Metro Manila air polluted beyond acceptable levels
Kristine L. Alave, BusinessWorld (18 Aug 2004)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES: Metro Manila air is unsafe and harmful, with its pollutants at levels higher than what is acceptable worldwide, the Department of Health said yesterday.

A study it sponsored along with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, World Health Organization, and Asian Development Bank showed that Metro Manila's air quality was poor, and the volume of particulate matter in its atmosphere was above the baseline level of 50 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3) for clean air.

In a press conference, Ronald D. Subida, an epidemiologist in the team that conducted the study, said the annual average of coarse particulate matter (PM10) in Manila's atmosphere was 57ug/m3.

Mr. Subida said the 7ug/m3 excess from the baseline "translated" to "excess" diseases and deaths.

The study also showed that with 57ug/m3 in the atmosphere, expected deaths from respiratory arrest could be up by 330, and from cardiovascular arrest by 200. Also, there could be 390 more respiratory deaths directly caused by air pollution.

Relatedly, there is an annual "excess" of 10,000 bronchitis cases and 300 "excess" asthma cases, the study said.

Elma Torres, the study's team leader, said that motor vehicles -- particularly buses -- were the major source of the pollution in the city, followed by industrial emissions.

Cities considered high risk or extremely polluted were Caloocan, Valenzuela, and Quezon City.

Quezon City air was deemed most polluted, with 96.9% of PM10 and 78.3% of PM2.5 or fine grain particulates.

Experts believe fine grain particulates are more dangerous because they can enter the respiratory tract.

Taguig, Pateros and Pasig City have tolerable air pollutants, while Antipolo showed to be the least polluted, said the study, which was conducted from May 2002-May 2003.

The Health department said the findings of the study should enlighten the public on the condition of the air they breathed.

"There is a direct relationship between air quality and people's health," said Health Secretary Manuel M. Dayrit during the launching of the study's findings.

"We are far from ideal and polluted air could have ill effects, and the effects could be neurological and respiratory," he added.

Copyright © 2004 BusinessWorld Online, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

http://www.bworld.com.ph/current/TopStories/topstory4.html

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