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DOH to Pinoys affected by Indonesia haze: Wear masks, see doc for breathing issues

The Department of Health on Tuesday warned Filipinos in areas reached by the haze from Indonesia's forest fires to be aware of the health risks and take proper precautions.

“Meron talagang health hazard sa baga ng mga taong makakalanghap n'yang usok, lalo na yung mga meron nang asthma, mahina ang baga, may mga may sakit na tao, na kagagaling lang sa pneumonia o sa infection sa baga,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told GMA News Online in a phone interview on Tuesday.

Individuals experiencing trouble breathing should see a doctor already, Duque said, as well as those with coughing and wheezing issues.

Duque also advised residents in affected areas to wear face masks outdoors.

The smoke and haze from the fires have reached Tawi-Tawi, parts of Palawan, and Koronadal City in South Cotabato. 

Vast forest fires have ripped across the Indonesian archipelago in recent weeks, prompting authorities to close schools and deploy thousands of personnel to battle the blazes consuming forests in Sumatra and Borneo.

The fires—usually started by illegal burning to clear land for farming—have unleashed choking haze across Southeast Asia, triggering diplomatic tensions with Indonesia's neighbors.

Ask LGUs for masks

According to Duque, residents may ask for a supply of masks from their local government units.

“Idulog sa pamahalaang lokal na sila ang nangangasiwa ng kanilang local health system at mandato nila na siguraduhin na maprotektahan ang kalusugan ng kanilang mamamayan,” he said.

If masks are not available, Duque said that residents may use substitutes in the meantime. “Sa mga iba, ginagawa nila 'yung bimpo binabasa at yun yung parang filter, parang mask din.”

A 1998 World Health Organization meeting on the health impacts of haze from Indonesia forest fires found that the main constituent of the haze that affects health is fine particulate matter. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, particulate matter consists of "a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air" that, when inhaled, can cause "serious health problems." — BM, GMA News