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Metro Manila smog from vehicular emissions, not Taal Volcano —DENR, PHIVOLCS

The smog monitored in Metro Manila may be primarily attributed to the emissions from heavy vehicular traffic as the plumes from Taal Volcano have minimal effect in the region, concerned agencies said Friday.

“It may be inferred that the smog may be primarily attributed to emissions from heavy vehicular traffic especially during rush hour,” the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said in an update today through its Taal Volcano Air Quality Monitoring report as of 8 a.m.

“Air quality varies in time and places and can change anytime depending on pollution sources and meteorological factors,” it added.

DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) said there was a possible occurrence of “thermal inversion” where warmer air is held below the cooler air.

It suppresses the ability of pollutants to move vertically, causing visibly trapped particulate matters closer to the ground, it said.

This was echoed by PAGASA weather forecaster Rhea Torres in an interview on Super Radyo dzBB.

“So normally, or during normal occurences, mas mainit po talaga ‘yung temperatura ng surface as compared sa hangin. Pero ‘yun nga po, dito pumapasok ‘yung inversion part,” Torres said.

(Normally, or during normal occurrences, the temperature of the surface is hotter compared to the air. But this is where the inversion comes in.)

“Nagkapalit po sila ng temperatura. Ang nangyari, ‘yung surface naman po ‘yung mas malamig compared sa hangin,” she added.

(The temperatures exchanged with each other. What happened was the surface was cooler compared to the air.)

Aside from this, the EMB said it was also observed that the wind is coming from the northeast direction going to the southwest direction or going away from Metro Manila.

Don't blame it on Taal

In a separate interview on Super Radyo dzBB, PHIVOLCS’ Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division head Mariton Bornas said that the smog in Metro Manila cannot be fully attributed to Taal Volcano.

“Ito pong nakakaapekto sa Metro Manila, hindi puwedeng isisi nang buo sa Taal Volcano dahil sa kasalukuyan po, meron po tayong tinatawag na thermal inversion ng atmosphere,” she said.

(This smog affecting Metro Manila cannot be fully attributed to Taal Volcano because we have a thermal inversion of the atmosphere.)

“Kaya hindi nakakaalsa maigi ang mga pollutants natin sa siyudad (That is why our pollutants cannot really dissipate)...This is mainly vehicular emissions,” she added.

However, Bornas did not discount the possibility that Metro Manila may be affected by the vog later today or on Saturday.

“Ngayon po ang panahon na medyo pabago bago ang ihip ng hangin dahil malapit na po pumasok ang hanging Amihan,” she said

(The direction of winds is frequently changing because the start of the cold season or Northeast Monsoon is near.)

According to the EMB, the air quality in Parañaque, Makati, and Pateros were “unhealthy.” This was reported amid the volcanic fog caused by Taal Volcano’s activity in Batangas.

Acutely unhealthy

In its Taal Volcano Air Quality Monitoring report, the EMB said Parañaque had “acutely unhealthy” air quality.

“We have observed ground level 24-hour particulate matter monitoring stations shown in Violet Box located in Parañaque with Air Quality Index of 217 (Acutely Unhealthy) which exceeded the Guideline Value of 35 [micrograms per normal cubic meter (ug/Ncm)],” the EMB said.

Based on Air Quality Health Guide, Parañaque is under the violet category which means people should limit outdoor exertion.

EMB said those with heart or respiratory disease should stay indoors as much as possible. Unnecessary trips should also be postponed. Motor vehicle use may be restricted and Industrial activities may be cut.

Meanwhile, Makati and Pateros had “unhealthy” air quality.

“Stations shown in orange boxes located in Makati and Pateros with Air Quality Index of 128 and 141 (Unhealthy) respectively which is above the guideline value of 35 ug/Ncm,” the EMB said.

It said the air quality in Makati and Pateros is unhealthy for sensitive groups. Those with respiratory diseases such as asthma should limit outdoor activities.

Phivolcs' vog tips

As regards the vog related to the Taal Volcano unrest, Phivolcs released the following advisory.

The agency has said that it still could not yet until when the vog would continue.

For protection, here are the things one must do to ensure safety during Taal’s period of unrest.

Stay indoors as much as possible

Sulfur dioxide is a mixture of sulfur and oxygen most commonly released by active volcanoes. It is often characterized as colorless smoke that smells similar to matchsticks or explosives.

Sulfur emissions are acidic and can easily irritate the eyes, throat and nose if thoroughly exposed.

The public is advised not to go outside as much as possible to avoid possible effects of prolonged sulfur dioxide exposure.

Immunocompromised groups such as people with asthma, heart and lung conditions, children and the elderly, and pregnant women are not advised to leave their homes.

Protect yourself

If one has to leave their house, the use of N95 face masks would be the next best step to limit the inhalation of sulfur dioxide and any other volcanic debris.

Ensure all doors and windows inside your homes are closed.

Keep drinking water to flush out any irritation in your system and to relax your respiratory system.

Know your volcanic first aid

If affected by vog through prolonged exposure or possible volcanic debris, the first step is to wash out the eyes with clean water to flush out any chemical that may have affected it.

Immediately wash hands and skin thoroughly with warm water and soap to remove any chemical that may have been stuck.

If any clothes have been affected by the volcanic gas, immediately change and wash.

Further medical actions

If exposed to high concentrations of volcanic chemicals, the patient must be brought immediately to a wide space with fresh air.

If difficulties in breathing continue, the patient must immediately be brought to a hospital or barangay health centers.

Maintain calm and observe the patient.

Taal Volcano remains under Volcanic Level 1 or “low level unrest” and remains under observation after five volcanic tremors lasting up to 575 minutes from Thursday to Friday and an observed pronounced upwelling of hot volcanic fluids in the Main Crater Lake.

PHIVOLCS said possible hazards that can occur due to the volcano’s activity are steam-driven or phreatic or gas-driven explosions, volcanic earthquakes, minor ashfall, and lethal accumulations or expulsions of volcanic gas. —Joahna Lei Casilao and Joviland Rita/AOL/NB, GMA Integrated News