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Air pollution kills nearly 5,000 Metro residents yearly

MANILA, Philippines -- While the phaseout of leaded gasoline


has improved
air quality in the country, more than 18 million people
still live in
cities with unhealthy levels of airborne particulate matter.
Of the urban cities, Metro Manila has the largest ``health
burden? from air pollution.
Estimates showed there were nearly 4,968 premature deaths
each year in Manila due to respiratory and cardiovascular
diseases from exposure to poor air
quality, according to the Philippine
Environment Monitor, a joint
report of the World Bank and the
Department of Environment
and
Natural Resources (DENR)
released Tuesday.
These accounted for 12
percent of all deaths in the metropolis,
the highest in any urban area in the country, it said.
The latest report examined the role of environment in people's health in the
Philippines.
Rahul Raturi, sector manager of the WB's Rural Development, Natural Resources
and Environmental Sector, said that one-fifth of reported cases of disease were due
to air pollution, water pollution, poor sanitation and hygiene.
``The cost of treatment and lost income from these environmental diseases is
roughly estimated at P14 billion per year,? he said in his address at the launch.
Raturi said the poor were more exposed to environmental risks. Low-income groups
had lower access to basic sanitation and safe water supply. They were also exposed
to water and air pollution.
According to the report, several government interventions over the past 10 years
had improved air quality.
For instance, the closure of a number of coal-fired power plants near Manila in 2001
led to a reduction in sulfur dioxide concentrations, while the phaseout of leaded
gasoline led to a ten-fold reduction in ambient lead levels since 2001, it said.
But air pollution remained higher in urban centers than in rural areas, the
Environment Monitor said.
Concentrations of particulate matter, often used as an indicator of air pollution,
were estimated to be three times higher on average in ``urban roadsides? than in
rural areas, it said.
Many cities in the country had air pollution levels above national standards, it
added.
Particulate matter is the generic term used for a type of air pollution that consists of
complex and varying mixtures of particles suspended in the air.
``Some 18 million people live in cities that exceed DENR standards. Metro Manila
with its large population and high pollution levels, has the largest health burden
from air pollution, with motor vehicles and utility vehicles being the greatest
culprits,? he added.
Particulate emissions in Manila largely came from motor vehicles (84 percent), solid
waste burning (10 percent), and industries (5.5 percent).
Seventy percent of car emissions came from more than 200,000 diesel-powered
utility vehicles, like jeepneys, and 170,000 gasoline-powered motorcycles and
tricycles.