Dirty air kills 27K in PH yearly, says study

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MANILA, Philippines — Air pollution from burning fossil fuels — primarily coal, gas and oil — is responsible for an estimated 27,000 premature deaths in the Philippines annually, and result in up to $6 billion (P304 billion) in economic losses per year, according to a new study released on Wednesday.

The study, published by Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, found that burning fossil fuels led to approximately 4.5 million premature deaths around the world every year, with toxic pollutants causing the rise in acute and chronic diseases.

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Globally, billions of hospital visits and work absences due to these illnesses cost an estimated  $2.9 trillion every year, or $8 billion per day, equivalent to at least 3.3 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, their analysis showed.

Global data sets

Using data published last year, researchers studied global data sets describing surface level concentrations of certain pollutants, including particulate matter (PM) 2.5, ozone and nitrogen oxides, to come up with an assessment of their impact on health and the economy for 2018.

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Aside from these costs, the study showed that air pollution from fossil fuels severely affect children in low-income countries, where at least 40,000 die before they reach the age of 5 because of exposure to particulate pollution.

Air pollution can also deliver a blow to productivity.

Worldwide, exposure to PM2.5, tiny particles that are able to travel deep into the respiratory tract, has resulted in increased work absences, causing at least 1.8 billion days of missed work every year.

Greenpeace Philippines said the study further underscored the urgency of shifting away from fossil fuel use and transitioning toward renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power.

‘Dirty energy transition’

“Fossil fuels are not only bad for the climate; they’re also bad for our health and our economy,”said Khevin Yu, the group’s energy transition campaigner. “If no drastic changes are done, it will only get worse in terms of public health and economic concerns.”

At present, the Philippines remains in a state of “dirty energy transition,”with a number of existing coal-fired power plants and several more in the pipeline, Yu said.

Despite calls from environmental groups on the adverse impact of using fossil fuels, the country is still dependent on coal as its main source of power.

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Emissions from vehicles that run on fossil fuels, meanwhile, are the main contributor to air pollution in cities across the country.

“The government needs to recognize that air pollution is a problem. Right now, it remains as the least concern of the government,” Yu said.

Researchers highlighted that solutions to fossil fuel air pollution could also deal with the climate crisis.

“A phaseout of existing coal, oil and gas infrastructure brings major health benefits due to the associated reduction in air pollution,” the study read.

“Clean transport and renewable energy not only bring significant reductions in toxic pollutants… but also help to keep climate change-causing greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.”

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