Air pollution: A public health concern in the Philippines

On World Environmental Health Day on September 26, 2017, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Health (DOH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) Philippines jointly highlight the environmental risk of indoor and outdoor air pollution to the health of Filipinos.

Air pollution is an environmental health risk around the world with 92% of the world’s population exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO’s ambient air quality guidelines. People in urban areas are more exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution than those in rural areas. Air pollutants such as sulfate, nitrates and black carbon, found in both indoor and outdoor settings, are extremely dangerous to people’s health.When the size of the particulate matter in the air is 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) and below, it penetrates to a person’s lungs and cardiovascular system.

According to WHO,the safe level for PM2.5is10 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) of air in a year. In Manila, the annual average of these pollutants is at 17 μg/m3, 70 percent more than the recommended safe level.

Globally, over six million deaths are linked to indoor and outdoor pollution due to non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and chronic respiratory diseasesevery year. In the Philippines, about 1 in 4 deaths are attributed to air pollution.

The DENR, DOH, and WHO are taking steps to decrease the environmental health risk of air pollution including improving the linkage of air quality and health monitoring, reviewing the air quality index, and strengthening the health impact assessment for projects and activities that may cause air pollution. Starting this year until 2019, the Philippine government also leads the regional forum on health and environment, bringing together countries in the Asia-Pacific Region where air pollution is one of the agenda

“Air pollution affects each and every one of us,” said Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu. “We need stronger coordination and wider collaboration so we can once and for all solve our air pollution problem.”

“Air pollution continues to pose a dangerous threat to the health of the Filipinos, especially those living in urbanized communities,” said WHO Representative to the Philippines DrGundoWeiler. “With the health and environment sectors, we areworking together to reduce the harmful impact of these environmental risks to people’s health and well-being.”# # #