Not only is air pollution an environmental issue, undesirable air quality is also a health hazard. Short-term effects of air pollution include sneezing, coughing, eye irritation, headaches, and dizziness.
Long-term effects, on the other hand, include cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory illnesses, and allergies.
Air Pollution is a Leading Cause of Cancer
In 2013, the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared outdoor air pollution to be a cancer-causing agent, also known as carcinogen.
Prior to this conclusion, the IARC had already classified many different components of air pollution as carcinogens, such as diesel engine exhaust and dust, as well as particulate matter (extremely small solid particles or liquid droplets found in the air).
The IARC conclusion was based on more than 1,000 scientific papers from studies across five continents. And according to the IARC, the major sources of outdoor air pollution come from emissions from the transportation sector, the industrial and agricultural sector, power generation, and residential heating and cooking.
In the same year, an eight-year old girl was declared to be China’s youngest ever lung cancer patient. According to the American Lung Association, her doctor said that her lung cancer was because of the significant increase of air pollution in China.
The Philippines: ‘Among the World’s Most Polluted Countries’
In 2018, the Philippines was declared by the World Health Organization as the country with the third highest number of deaths due to air pollution with 45.3 deaths per 100,000 individuals. In February of 2020, the Philippines ranked 57th out of 98 in IQAir’s “World’s Most Polluted Countries” of 2019.
The Philippines’ 2019 particulate pollution (PM2.5) levels was recorded at an average of 17.6 micrograms per cubic meter (μ/mᶟ), higher than the recorded 14.6μ/mᶟ in 2018.
Particulate matter PM2.5 refers to particulate matter that has a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers – about 3% of the diameter of a strand of human hair. Visibility is harder and the skies look hazy when there are high levels of particulate matter in the air.
The safety limit for pollution, according to the World Health Organization, is 10 μg/mᶟ, meaning the Philippines’ 17.6μg/mᶟ has exceeded safe levels.
The Philippines’ pollution levels are ranked “moderate” on the US Air Quality Index
The Philippines’ pollution levels are ranked “moderate” on the US Air Quality Index. This means that sensitive individuals are recommended to avoid outdoor activity, as breathing the air outside may cause respiratory symptoms.
And while the Philippines ranked lowest in the level of pollution in Southeast Asia, most of the cities included in the study exceeded WHO’s safety limit.