Indonesia haze: Cebu residents urged to stay indoors or wear masks during peak hours
CEBU CITY, Philippines – Environment officials have advised Metro Cebu residents to stay indoors or wear protective masks if venturing outside during peak hours, as haze from forest fires in Indonesia continued to affect the area.
“As a safety precaution, the general public is advised to take precautionary measures during peak hours,” the advisory from the Environmental Management Bureau Region 7 (EMB-7) under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, sent to media on Friday afternoon, September 20 read.
If one has to go outside, EMB-7 advised residents to use protective masks to guard against inhaling fine pollutants. Peak hours – or times when are when air pollution is at unhealthy levels – are between 5 am to 10 am, and between 4 pm to 9 pm.
The advisory was based on the latest results for particulate matter from the EMB's Talisay City station in Metro Cebu, which yielded results barely within healthy levels at 43.71 micrograms per normal cubic meter. The maximum limit is 50.
On Wednesday, September 18, the EMB issued its first advisory on unhealthy air quality after haze from Indonesian forest fires combined with local pollution pushed air pollution beyond healthy levels during these peak hours. (READ: Haze reaches Metro Cebu)
While the test found that the daily average air quality remained within safe levels, the threshold of 50 micrograms per normal cubic meter were breached during these peak hours, which means the air was already unsafe for humans to breathe.
Particulate matter, which is invisible to the human eye, stays longer in the air than heavier particles, increasing the chances of inhalation and getting lodged deep into the lungs or circulatory system.
Dr Daisy Villa, Cebu City Health Officer, echoed the EMB’s advice to wear at least N95-rated mask, specifically designed to protect against smoke inhalation and particulate matter.
"We encourage especially kids and those with ailments to use masks," she told reporters on Friday.
Cindylyn Pepito Ochea, EMB-Central Visayas' ambient air and water quality chief, said the EMB could not yet determine how much longer the haze would linger in the region.
“On top of local sources of air pollution, we cannot determine how long this [the heavy pollution] will last, because of factors beyond our control,” Ochea said.
The haze was also seen in other parts of the country including Mindanao, Leyte, and Palawan.
Factors such as wind direction and speed, as well as rain would determine how long the haze would remain in parts of the country.
On Saturday, September 21, the EMB will get the average air quality results in more dense areas of Metro Cebu from its stations in Mandaue City and Cebu City. – Rappler.com