Over 44 million people living in the southern and central Philippines has been put at risk of short and long-term health effect of the pollution that came from the seasonal burning of agricultural land in Indonesia. A thick layer of haze has covered much of South East Asia in recent weeks, worsening Malaysia and Singapore air quality.
The environment minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Abdulraof Macacua, has advised the public to wear masks when going out due to the health hazards brought about by the Indonesian forest fire.
A new technology is giving more people access to real-time haze information. The development of low-cost monitors has enabled individuals and companies to operate monitoring stations and share the data with their communities. In the Philippines, there are now more than twice as many privately-operated monitors than government stations.
A privately operated monitor raised awareness of the threat from haze in Cebu city, which is more than 1,500 km from Indonesia’s Central Kalimantan province, the worst affected area. The air quality monitor detected elevated levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) as soon as air quality in Cebu city and other areas deteriorated. PM2.5 is particulate matter small enough to enter a person’s lungs and bloodstream, posing health risks including asthma, respiratory illness, and worst, cancer.
The stations’ readings were shared in real-time on the IQAir AirVisual platform alongside a health advisory: https://www.airvisual.com/philippines and through the AirVisual app: https://www.airvisual.com/air-quality-app.
The Word Health Organization considers PM2.5 to be the most harmful outdoor air pollutant, causing 7 million deaths annually. Unioil Petroleum Philippines Inc. operates a network of 50 active PM2.5 monitoring stations that are able to detect PM2.5. The data from sensors is shared by contributors via the cloud to Swiss-based air quality technology company IQAir, where it is verified, calibrated and then published in real-time. You also get an advice on whether to wear a mask or limit outdoor activity.
Unioil initially deployed AirVisual Pro to its select stations in Manila as a way to help Filipinos view vehicle emission-related air pollution, it also has been a vital information source for those who are concerned about the Indonesian haze and Manila’s air health condition too.
The government and the private sector will need more extensive measures to enable Filipinos today to access timely air quality data to safeguard their health.