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The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) continues to strengthen its air quality monitoring system to ensure that the environment and public health are protected from the dangers of air pollution.

“Air quality monitoring, which is an integral part of an effective air quality management system, has always been one of the top priorities of the Department,” said Director William Cuñado of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), a line bureau of the DENR that sets air quality standards and monitors ambient and point source pollutants.

Cuñado described air quality monitoring as a crucial step for taking corrective actions to reduce air pollution which, according to the World Health Organization, is the largest single environmental health risk, causing numerable non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular and respiratory ailments, stroke and lung cancer.

“By providing accurate and reliable data through our air quality monitoring, we could help the public—especially those who are at risk—to take action to better protect their health and guide our policymakers in coming up with measures to tackle air pollution,” he pointed out.

“The EMB has a total of 75 air quality monitoring stations that are strategically located in 16 regions nationwide, 34 of those are capable of continuous online monitoring, while 41 are using manual method of sampling,” said the Director.

These stations, he said, are capable of measuring air pollutants, particularly PM10 or particulate matter smaller than 10 micrometers in diameter and PM2.5, whose diameter is 2.5 micrometers or less.

Fifteen (15) of these in eight regions are also capable of measuring gaseous air pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide.

The Director emphasized that the location of these monitoring stations are strategic, based on the siting criteria of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, as prescribed by Republic Act 8749 or the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999.

To ensure that quality data are provided to the public, Cuñado stressed that regular calibration and maintenance of these stations are carried out by EMB technical personnel.

The monitoring of PM2.5 is being prioritized by EMB because the tiny inhalable particles are able to travel deeply into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs. These fine particles pose the greatest risk to health, Director Cuñado stressed.

The current ambient air quality guideline values for PM2.5 are 50 micrograms per Normal cubic meters (ug/Nm3) for average 24-hour short-term monitoring and 25 ug/Nm3 for average one-year long-term monitoring.

The EMB Director, however, disclosed that the air quality standards for PM2.5 are being reviewed and updated by the Inter-Agency Committee for Environmental Health, chaired by the Department of Health and vice-chaired by the DENR.

He likewise revealed that the inter-agency body is also reviewing the emission standards for stationary or industrial air pollution sources.

In 2003, the DENR issued an administrative order requiring all industrial facilities with potential to emit air pollution to conduct and submit ambient air quality self-monitoring to EMB.

This year, the EMB is scheduled to formulate the standards for hazardous ambient air quality. ###