19 August 2004

Persistent, Irksome and Recurrent

"Tumatahol ka na naman" (You're barking again).

Such is the amusing analogy and banter elicited when you run across one poor unlucky fellow who incessantly coughs. Likened to a dog who never stops barking, somebody who coughs uncontrollably is usually the object of attention in office, school, or wherever you might find them. And I believe not a day passes that you will be spared from such an encounter.

Especially these days.

From a doctor's point of view, cough and its persistence, remains to be one of the most common complaints encountered in medical practice. Causes usually fall into one of these (not necessarily arranged in order, ok?):
  • Asthma

  • Sinusitis

  • Allergic Rhinitis

  • Chronic Bronchitis

  • Influenza
  • and last, but certainly the most feared of all,
  • Pulmonary Tuberculosis (PTB)
While PTB is really dreadful, I believe its incidence is strongly dependent on our immunities and the quality of air we are subjected to everyday. That is what I will be posting about today.

Last July 27, the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said that
"The quality of air we breathe in Metro Manila and some parts of adjacent provinces is within the policy standards that safeguards human health and the environment. The EMB cited data gathered by 8 monitoring stations that evaluated the air content for major pollutants like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, photochemical oxidant, carbon monoxide and suspended particles. Results 'did not exceed' the guidelines for 'ambient air quality' as set by the Clean Air Act the EMB happily declared." [INQ7.net]
Are we supposed to believe that? Who are these illusionists kidding?

That particular news report prompted friend blogger Julsitos of the Idiot Board to post "Boogerama," in an effort to tell those DENR "magicians" that "Hey fellahs, check your built-in indicators --- your boogers --- and tell me again what the quality of air is!"

Indeed, you can even ask Sassy, who lives on a house on a hill (Antipolo City), how the skyline looks on a clear day for the rest of us here in Metro Manila. Surely, she will tell you that a gray, hazy smog floats and envelopes our skies. This gray haze has already been given a term by some 200 UN-sponsored scientists two years ago: they called it the "Asian Brown Cloud" phenomenon.

The Asian Brown Cloud phenomenon, "estimated to be 2 miles (3 kilometers) thick, is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths a year from respiratory disease. By slashing the sunlight that reaches the ground by 10 to 15 percent, the choking smog has also altered the region's climate, cooling the ground while heating the atmosphere, scientists said. The scientists warned that the thick cloud puts the lives of millions of people at risk from drought and flooding, partly because rainfall patterns have been radically altered with dire implications for economic growth and health." [COPD International Library]

Metro Manila residents are exposed to more than 100,000 tons of particulate matter annually. Since the enactment of the Clean Air Act (CAA) of 1999 and the elimination of lead in gasoline beginning January 2001, there is notable improvement made in that ambient environmental pollutant levels are down.

There is improvement alright, but to say they are within "acceptable levels," is a delusion.

And deluding your fellow Filipinos is not really in our best interests, right?

The sad facts remain:
  • "Industries, most of which are located in the Metro Manila airshed, contribute a lot to air pollution. They include thermal power stations, cement manufacturing plants and oil refineries. Oil and coal-fired power plants, many of which are also located in the metropolis, emit 223,000 metric tons of sulfur dioxide every year."

  • "Diesel emissions from buses, jeepneys, utility vehicles and trucks are estimated to be the biggest contributor to urban air pollution. Last year, there were 4.2 million registered vehicles in the country, a more than threefold increase from 1.2 million in 1983. A fast growth in vehicle ownership is contributing significantly to air pollution."

  • "The health cost of air pollution in the 4 major cities of the country has been estimated to be more than $400 million (about P22.4 billion) a year or approximately 0.6 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP). It has been estimated that more than 2,000 people die prematurely every year because of air pollution. More than 9,000 people suffer from acute bronchitis. And nearly 51 million 'respiratory-symptom days' are recorded yearly in Metro Manila."
  • [INQ7.net]
The DENR can always argue that their monitors record that metropolitan air quality is within "acceptable levels." Sure, they can do that. They can even call press conferences ( as they did) to trumpet that assertion.

But is it credible?

They present us with number and figures, while we cough, cough, and cough!

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