Air pollution is a concern which poses threat to human health and likewise greatly impacts the ecosystem and the environment.
An expert on air quality and pollution, Environment and Management Bureau Consultant Engr. Reynaldo Tejada shares his knowledge on the impact of air quality and pollution in human health, the ecosystem and the environment in a presentation held here recently on air modeling in the Baguio-La Trinidad- Itogon-Sablan-Tuba-Tublay areas.
Even with the passage of the Clean Air Act which puts in place air pollution control and policy, Tejada said there are reasons why one should be concerned in air pollution as it poses significant threat to the human health and atmosphere.
Its effect in the human body leads to various health-related diseases such as respiratory disease, decreased lung functions, cancers, eye and throat irritation, he adds. At high risk are children and elderly and those individuals with asthma and cardiopulmonary diseases.
As to the impact on the ecosystem and the environment, it affects vegetation leading to reduction of agricultural yields. There is reduced production due to emission of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur oxide (SO2), said Tejada. Both elements create acid rain which reduces agricultural yield.
Chemical pollutants such as industrial and agricultural chemicals likewise contribute to climate change.
Sources of air pollution are anthropogenic and natural sources. Anthropogenic or man-made sources such as those which are stationary like chimneys, mobile sources like vehicle emissions and area sources emanating from forest fires, kaingin or burn and slash, and cigarette smoke. Examples of natural sources are those emitted by volcanoes.
Impact of air pollution is categorized into local, regional and global scale. If local, there is a need to measure criteria of pollutant as established by the government to determine exposure level everyday to a certain limit and certain pollutant within a particular timeframe, said Tejada.
Locally, particulate matters (PM) are produced from combustions of motor vehicles, furnaces, chimneys, including construction activities. These particulates are inhaled categorized into total suspended particulate (TSP) an example of which is the booger that accumulates in the nostrils, PM 2.5 which are particles measuring less than 2.5 µm (micrometres) while PM 10 are particulate matters 10 micrometers or less in diameter.
These particulate matters which affect the body may pass through the nasopharynx, tracheobronchial until the pulmonary system, depending on the type of pollutant an individual inhales. The PM2.5, generally described as fine particles, is dangerous which cannot be eliminated but sticks in the lungs and accumulates, said Tejada.
He cited a study comparing lungs of two persons who died in Manila and from the province. The one from Manila has color black lungs while from the province color red which is an indication of heavy pollution in Manila compared to the province.
Tejada cited a case of a PM10 particulate if released in the air at the height of one meter without air movement will take more than four months before it reaches the ground. It means, without air movement, it is suspended in the air and a lot of it is inhaled. But if there is air movement, a little of the particulates are inhaled, he explained.
Another realization he shared is that, there are more PM10 and PM2.5 inhaled indoors due to static air movement while more TSP than PM10 or PM2.5 inhaled outdoors due to presence of air movement which dissipates the particulates.
His advice is: when purchasing or building a house, proper ventilation should be one of the factors for consideration. Installation of exhaust fans is also one way of depleting particulates inside homes, he added.
For big industries, they are required to have a workplace environment monitoring (WEM) to determine concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5 based on the Department of Labor and Employment standards.
The regional impact otherwise known as transboundary air pollutants are those which travel afar such as forest fires, for instance, the one that occurred in Indonesia in 2005. The haze went as far as Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
The global effect of air pollution is global warming, greenhouse gases effect and ozone depletion, he further adds.
The principle of garbage in garbage out applies to air pollution, said Tejada. “If you pollute the air, the air will pollute you”, he lamented. Susan C. Aro (ALT/SCA-PIA-CAR, Benguet)