Cebu air quality worsens due to haze from Indonesia

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 18) — Authorities have advised residents in Cebu to stay indoors, wear N95 masks or cover their noses and mouths with wet handkerchief as fine particulate matter has gone above safe levels.

Air quality tests ran by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) in Central Visayas showed that fine particulate matter is at 56 micrograms per normal cubic meter, while the safe level is 50 micrograms per normal cubic meter.

"Since they are so small and light, [fine particulate matter] tend to stay longer in the air than heavier particles. This increases the chances of humans and animals inhaling them into the bodies and might bypass the nose and throat and penetrate deep into the lungs. Some may even enter the circulatory system,” said Cindy Pepito-Ochea, head of EMB’s environment management enforcement unit in Central Visayas.

The EMB advised Metro Cebu residents to stay indoors if they have nothing to do outside. Residents should also close windows and doors.

It is also not advisable to jog nor run outdoors as the body takes in more pollutants when active.

Parts of the Visayas and Mindanao have began seeing hazy skies this week, as forest fires rage across the Indonesian regions of Sumatra and Kalimantan in recent weeks.

More than 930,000 hectares of land have been razed in Indonesia, hundreds of residents evacuated, and more than 9,000 personnel have been deployed to battle the flames, according to CNN Indonesia.

Neighboring Singapore and Malaysia have both choked in a dense haze all week, with air quality reaching unhealthy levels.

The fires were allegedly caused by farmers using slash and burn techniques to clear the ecologically rich land — the same practice that led to uncontrollable fires in the Brazilian Amazon this summer.

Cebu-based journalist Dale Israel contributed to this report.