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Fighting for breathable air

Mark Saludes
Face masks have become part of Grace Francisco’s daily “survival kit.” Without it, her day could either end with anti-allergy medicine or a trip to the nearest hospital.
Francisco cannot let pollution in the city trigger the asthma that has worsened since she migrated to Manila from her province to work.
“The air in the city is literally thick because of smoke and dust,” she said. “You are practically putting yourself in danger every time you go out of the house.”
The last time she had an asthma attack was in mid-May after she forgot her mask and was exposed to dirty air after when caught in a two-hour traffic jam.
“I don’t think I will ever get well as long as I am in the city. If not because of my job, I will go back to my home town where the air is relatively cleaner,” she said.
A study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) released in May last year revealed that the Philippines has the third highest number of deaths due to air pollution.
The study noted there were about 45.3 deaths per 100,000 people due to outdoor air pollution. China ranked first with 81.5 deaths and Mongolia second with 48.8 deaths.
The leading causes of death are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and pneumonia.
The WHO noted that more than 90 per cent of the global population “is breathing in high levels of pollutants,” resulting in at least seven million deaths each year.
The study found that more than 90 per cent of deaths linked to air pollution occur in low-income-countries in Asia and Africa.
Addressing the problem
Communities around the world have been trying to take part in a campaign to save the environment and address problems brought about by pollution.
In Bali, Indonesia, a group of artists has given new life to used tires and inner tubes by transforming them into earrings, wallets, laptop cases and bags.
The Art Cycle Bali, a shop in the island’s Ubud district, has been attracting visitors fascinated by the handmade fashion accessories and bags.
“There are millions of tires in landfills around the world, some of which end up being burned, polluting the air,” the manager, Wayan Asmini, said.
“We need to do something about it. It is important to set an example and make people aware that we can be part of change,” she said.
Art Cycle Bali has already repurposed and recycled more than 1,000 non-biodegradable tires and inner tubes.
Indonesian recycle artist, Mas Pat, started the movement in 2006, inspiring other artists from Spain and the Mediterranean to repurpose tires into fashionable art.
Caring for the common home
Church leaders in the Philippines have repeatedly stressed the message of ecological conversion since Pope Francis released his encyclical on the environment, Laudato si’: On care for our common home.
Franciscan Father Pete Montallana has been lamenting the diminishing forests in the Sierra Madre Mountains, saying that it they are not only a source of food and medicine but “are a great source of clean air.”
Father John Leydon of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, emphasised, “We have to abandon the throwaway culture that pollutes our land, water and air.” 
He said, “We need to admit that we are facing an era of disasters.” 
Father Raymond Montero Ambray of the Diocese of Tandag in Mindanao, said various health problems can only be resolved by addressing environmental issues.
“The protection of the environment is the protection of life,” he said, adding, “If the common home is healthy, then all the inhabitants will live well and right.”
Face masks might not be enough to protect the likes of Grace Francisco in the near future. She said she might be relocating to a less polluted place soon. But then she wonders if there is any place that has not been abused by humans.

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