1. Read the excerpt below from an article by Alejandro R. Roces. 2. Answer the worksheet individually.

By Alejandro R. Roces Lately, we observed the extraordinary build up of traffic in Manila streets. News reporters note this as a result of the rollback in gasoline prices, such that more people now bring out and use their cars more freely. This means that more vehicles plying the streets produce more pollution in the air we breathe (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1. Smog over Metro Manila Source: Bacongco, K. (2008, June 11). Smog in Metro Manila. Flickr. Retrieved January 8, 2010, from

Even before, Manila has been cited in World Health Organization (WHO) reports as one of the most polluted cities in the world, together with Mexico City, Shanghai, China and New Delhi, India, with vehicular emissions causing 80 Bordallo, M. C. A. (2010). Real-life cases for teaching and learning environmental chemistry. Unpublished manuscript. Page 8

percent of the smog and the remaining 20 percent of the smog coming from factories and construction work. The Philippines has about 5 million registered motor vehicles, of which 31 percent or 1.55 million are in Metro Manila. About 60 percent run on diesel, which are found to emit higher levels of more harmful pollutants. There are also more motorcycles running on the streets now with twostroke engines that Asian Development Bank (ADB) reports found to emit more toxic gases. We should be very concerned about the worsening air pollution because primarily it causes major health problems, aside from the fact that it worsens greenhouse gas emissions, a major cause of climate change. A survey on Asian air pollution by a market research firm, Synovate, found that 98% of Manila residents are affected by air pollution and that air quality keeps worsening. 82% of the respondents experienced irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, 57% have difficulties in breathing and 27% had skin problems. Hospitals in Metro Manila are always congested despite the administration of more preventive medications and the use of most modern diagnostic methods and facilities. It seems the health of the population is only getting worse. A joint report of the World Bank and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) featured by The Manila Bulletin showed there were nearly 5,000 premature deaths each year in Manila due to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases from exposure to poor air quality. Health problems such as asthma and other lung infections, heart problems, cancers, central nervous system damage, lower IQs and mental problems increasingly affect residents. More and more babies suffer from respiratory problems and even babies as young as two months old suffer from asthma, something unheard of 20 years ago. And the latest reports from the Better Air Quality (BAQ) Initiatives warn that aging populations are also at great risk from pollution. The latest initiative to solve the pollution problem and improve air quality has been tied up with climate change mitigation. So far, the real solution to this problem is to plant trees. Studies have shown that a single tree can absorb about 0.56 metric tons of carbon dioxide in its lifetime, and around ten trees are needed to capture the emissions of one car. So in Manila alone, we should have 15.5 million trees to ensure that harmful gases do not pollute the air we breathe. This provides advocates and mayors a clear guideline on mapping each of their cities and municipalities, especially the more highly urbanized and populated ones, where they should plant more trees. …it would be nice to look up and behold once more the twinkling of the stars at night in our city.

Bordallo, M. C. A. (2010). Real-life cases for teaching and learning environmental chemistry. Unpublished manuscript. Page 9

Air pollution is the introduction of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or damages the natural environment, into the atmosphere. Primary pollutants are those that are directly emitted from a process, such as the carbon monoxide gas from a motor vehicle, while secondary pollutants are those formed from the reactions of primary pollutants. An important example of a secondary pollutant is ground level ozone, which is one of the components of photochemical smog. Smog is a kind of air pollution. There are two types of smog: classical or industrial smog and modern or photochemical smog. Industrial smog is mainly caused by industrial activities, such as the burning of sulfur-containing coal. It is characterized by high levels of sulfur dioxde, particulate matter such as ash and soot, and sometimes carbon monoxide. The industrial smog in London killed around 4,000 people in 1952. Unlike industrial smog, which is associated with cold, damp air, photochemical smog usually occurs when the weather is dry and sunny. Photochemical smog does not usually come from coal but from vehicular emissions that are acted upon by sunlight to form secondary pollutants. A series of chemical reactions are involved in the formation of photochemical smog. Automobile emissions contain unburned hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Hydrocarbons are compounds consisting of carbon and hydrogen atoms. The major source of hydrocarbons is gasoline. Nitrogen dioxide is an amber-colored gas that causes irritation in the eyes and respiratory system. It is responsible for the brownish haze associated with photochemical smog. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) absorbs sunlight and breaks apart into nitric oxide (NO) and oxygen (O). The oxygen atom then reacts with oxyen molecules in the atmosphere and hydrocarbons in automobile exhausts to produce a variety of irritating and toxic secondary pollutants, such as ozone, peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN) and aldehydes. Ozone, PAN and aldehydes cause difficulty in breathing, and eye irritations. The series of reactions that result in the formation of smog are shown below: NO2 Nitrogen dioxide O Oxygen atom + O2 Oxygen molecule + sunlight NO Nitric oxide O3 Ozone + O Oxygen atom

Bordallo, M. C. A. (2010). Real-life cases for teaching and learning environmental chemistry. Unpublished manuscript. Page 10


+ O2

+ NO2

CH3COO-ONO2 Peroxyacylnitrate (PAN)


+ O3

RCHO Aldehydes

Another primary pollutant from automobile emissions is carbon monoxide (CO). It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas formed when there is no sufficient oxygen during combustion. Exposure to carbon monoxide results in decreased oxygen needed by tissues. The heart must work harder to supply oxygen to tissues, and this increases the chance of a heart attack.

How can you help reduce air pollution in Manila?

Hill, J. W. and Ko;b, D. K. (2004). Chemistry for changing times. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall. Roces, A. R. (2008, December 11). Clean air and twinkling stars. Retrieved January 7, 2010, from egoryId=64 Air pollution. (2010, January 5). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 07:41, January 7, 2010, from

Bordallo, M. C. A. (2010). Real-life cases for teaching and learning environmental chemistry. Unpublished manuscript. Page 11

NAME _______________________________ SECTION ______________ DATE _____________

1. Differentiate the two types of smog by filling in the table below. smog. INDUSTRIAL SMOG Major source PHOTOCHEMICAL SMOG

Chemical components

Associated weather condition

2. Which type of smog occurs in Manila?

3. What is the major source of smog in Manila?

4. What health problems have been experienced by Manila residents that are believed to be associated with air pollution?

Bordallo, M. C. A. (2010). Real-life cases for teaching and learning environmental chemistry. Unpublished manuscript. Page 12

5. How many premature deaths occur in Manila due to air pollution every year?

6. What pollutants in the Manila smog are responsible for the health problems experienced by residents? Primary pollutants Secondary pollutants

7. According to the article, what is the “real solution” to the air pollution problem?

8. Do you agree with the author on the “real solution” to the air pollution problem? Support your position.

9. Identify two devices / technologies that can reduce air pollution from automobiles. Briefly describe how these devices work.

10. Fill in the pledge sheet on the next page.

Bordallo, M. C. A. (2010). Real-life cases for teaching and learning environmental chemistry. Unpublished manuscript. Page 13


As a concerned Benildean, I pledge to REDUCE AIR POLLUTION in Manila. I promise to do the following:



Bordallo, M. C. A. (2010). Real-life cases for teaching and learning environmental chemistry. Unpublished manuscript. Page 14