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Expert warns vs asthma, respiratory infections on New Year

by Jericho Zafra

Air pollution from firecracker-related activities on New Year’s Eve could lead to a surge of asthma attacks and other respiratory infections during the celebration, a medical expert warned. 

“Normally, these cases [asthma and respiratory infections] really increase especially after the festivities, particularly the setting off of firecrackers,” Dr. Jose Rene de Grano, President of Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines Inc. (PHAPI), said at the Laging Handa briefing. 

De Grano advised the public to wear face masks to  lessen the effects of pollution brought by the fireworks displays. 

In January 2022, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Environmental Management Bureau announced that air pollution levels in the cities of Marikina and Manila exceeded the safety standards during the first two hours of the first day of 2022.

Based on the report, the levels of PM10 or particles found in dust and smoke in the air in the two cities went above the limit of 150 micrograms per normal cubic meter. 

Marikina recorded  347 ug/NCM while Manila reached 156 ug/NCM in the first two hours of 2022, the DENR said.

PM10 in firecrackers consists mostly of explosive powder residues wrapped in paper, which contain sulfur, carbon, potassium nitrate, and other heavy metal-containing minerals, the DENR report said.

De Grano also said that even though private hospitals are already preparing to treat an influx of injuries caused by fireworks, the general public should still abstain from using these items to ensure a safer celebration of the New Year.

“If possible, let us avoid using these fireworks so that it won’t add to our problems in the coming year. Let’s not use fireworks so that we can be safer,” the official said.

From December 21 to 29, the Department of Health (DOH) reported 36 firecracker-related injuries, which is  44 percent higher than the number of injuries in the same period last year. 

Earlier, President Marcos Jr. recommended that local government units set a communal place for fireworks displays. He also said LGUs should put up firework displays for their constituents to prevent them from using potentially dangerous firecrackers.

De Grano also encouraged all Filipinos to wear face masks in indoor and outdoor settings during gatherings to maintain the lower case count of COVID-19 in the Philippines and to prevent the spread of respiratory infections associated with the extreme weather changes during the holiday season.

The DOH reported Wednesday an additional 257 COVID-19 cases and 13,395 active cases in the country, with a 7.3 percent nationwide positivity rate. 

According to independent pandemic monitor OCTA Research Group, there could be 500 to 700 new cases on Thursday.

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