Top 8 Tips to Reduce Exposure to Air Pollution

by Air Quality Expert Michael Shell

Here are some tips to reduce your exposure to harmful air pollution! You can also take steps to reduce your contribution to them along the way.

  1. When possible, avoid traveling during the busiest times of the day in Metro Manila. In traffic congestion, the higher number of vehicles and rapid stopping and starting behavior produce greater particulate matter (PM) concentrations. You may also want to avoid rush hour to save time! If you’re behind the wheel, try to “smooth” your driving by limiting abrupt acceleration, which also saves money in fuel costs.
  2. Traveling along busy roads is a part of everyday life in Manila. Research shows that exposure to harmful levels of PM decreases with distance from major roadways, especially in places with high numbers of diesel engine vehicles. Try to avoid prolonged amounts of time along major roadways and if possible take a route that will provide distance from major roads.
  3. If you’re driving your own vehicle, purchase cleaner “Euro V” fuel. Euro V fuel is offered at a number of stations throughout Metro Manila. Burning cleaner fuel reduces harmful tailpipe emissions! For gasoline automobiles, Euro V instead of Euro IV gasoline can reduce harmful Carbon Monoxide (CO) emissions by up to 74% and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) emissions by up to 31%. For older diesels, Euro V diesel can reduce CO by up to 38%, and PM emissions by up to 20% compared with filling up with Euro IV diesel. (Source)
  4. Wear a mask on poor air quality days and when on major roadways. The right mask can filter out 95 to 99% of small particles you breathe. Do your research to make sure you get a highly rated mask that fits well!
  5. Use air filters in your home, and anywhere where you spend a lot of time indoors! Indoor air filters that have high rates of circulation are most effective, combined with keeping the indoor space sealed. And be sure to change your filter as instructed.
  6. Monitor and try to limit direct and indirect exposure to smoke and other harmful toxins and pollutants. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that tobacco use kills over 7 million people a year. (Source)
  7. Cook with a cleaner stove. Charcoal or wood stoves release dangerous levels of particulate matter, gases, and toxins into your air. This can be more harmful when used indoors, where the air cannot circulate. The WHO estimates that almost 4 million people worldwide die prematurely every year because of indoor air pollution related to inefficient cooking practices. (Source)
  8. Reduce waste burning! Open air burning of yard waste and other materials releases fine PM, which damages the lungs and is linked to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Waste burning can also release CO, dioxin, formaldehydes, heavy metals, and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), all harmful to your health.(Source)

About the author:

Michael Shell is an Economist with the Office of Transportation and Air Quality (OTAQ) at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In his six years with the Transportation and Climate Division, Michael has worked across a range of transportation policy initiatives such as supporting impacts analyses and biofuel lifecycle analysis for the Renewable Fuel Standard program; evaluating conditions for electric vehicle adoption futures; and collaborating with state-level stakeholders to model cross-sector, multi-pollutant reduction strategies. Michael obtained a BA in Economics and Political Science from the University of Connecticut, and a MS in Applied Economics from Johns Hopkins University.

Michael has enjoyed his time in the Philippines to experience three outdoor firsts: scuba diving, canyoneering, and surfing!

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This post is written in celebration of Air Quality Awareness Week (April 29-May 3, 2019)