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People with respiratory illnesses at risk

By: Antionio Colina IV

PATIENTS who are suffering from respiratory illnesses should remain indoors or wear masks as the haze believed to be caused by forest fires in Sumatra, Indonesia continued to affect several parts of Mindanao, a health official said yesterday.

Gloria Ortega Raut, senior health officer of the Department of Health in Region 11, said patients should take precautionary measures even if the air pollutants have remained at the safe levels, or from 0 to 54 micrograms per cubic meter.

Republic Act 8749, also known as the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999, provides “guidance in providing health advisory/statement at each levels of pollution index.”

Raut added if the pollution index reaches 55 micrograms per cubic meter or higher, it becomes unsafe for elderly and children who are suffering from asthma to stay outside of their houses.

“When it reaches this level, some may have difficulty breathing,” she said.

Once it reaches the ground haze may cause cough, nose and throat irritation, and mild shortness of breath to more complex diseases such as cancer, she warned.

“Haze is defined as a slight obscuration of the lower atmosphere, typically caused by fine suspended particles. It is a result of an aggregation in the atmosphere of very fine widely dispersed, solid or liquid particles or both in relatively dry air, giving the air an opalescent appearance,” she said.

Among the hazardous chemical compounds contained in haze are sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide.

Sulfur dioxide causes impairment of visual perception, manual dexterity, learning ability, and performance of complex tasks.

Sulfur dioxide worsens existing respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, while nitrogen dioxide irritates the lungs, causes burning sensation in chest, severe coughing and shortness of breath.

Raut added haze contains dusts of smoke particles suspected to come from the forest fires in Indonesia.

“It is associated with the forest fires there because there’s no fire here,” she said.

She said the DOH 11 has not received any reports of people suffering from respiratory diseases due to the haze but she recommended that they use N95 masks, the ones that have tiny holes on its filters used in areas affected by severe acute respiratory syndrome.

The haze worsened when Tyhoon Lando hit land last Sunday and siphoned off smoke into the country.

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