metro pollution

When I was a kid, I’d pass by the Meralco plant in Sucat on my way to school, and the ugly fumes from its big chimneys would greet me everyday. This bothered me considerably, and with my then dream of becoming a scientist, I thought of inventing a chimney cover that would convert bad air into good air before it was let loose in the atmosphere. Come Environmental Class in college, I discovered that my cover had in fact been invented, and was already being used worldwide.

On a more recent note, this article on cleaning big cities in National Geographic made me a little more hopeful in the restoration of Manila air. Excerpts below:

Cleaning Big Cities’ Air “Not Rocket Science,” Expert Says
John Roach
for National Geographic News
October 27, 2005

Large metropolises have some of the dirtiest air in the world. But experts say technologies that have existed for decades could help solve the problem—if utility companies are willing to use them.

The high altitude and ample sunlight of Mexico City create an ideal environment for pollutants to accumulate and linger, Molina said.

One major culprit, ground-level ozone, forms due to a sunlight-fueled chemical reaction between nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. Commonly called smog, ground-level ozone causes a host of respiratory ailments, according the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Particulate matter is the term applied to the tiny bits of dust, soot, dirt, smoke, and liquid droplets that accumulate in the air and give smog its color.

Breathing particulate matter also causes respiratory ailments. In addition, it adversely affects the environment by changing the acidity of lakes, streams, and forests.

According to Walke, existing pollution-control technologies include:
• So-called scrubbers, which typically use chemicals or water to remove sulfur from gases produced in coal-fired power plants.

• A process known as selective catalytic reduction, which relies on the use of chemicals like ammonia to start a reaction that removes nitrogen oxides from tailpipes and smokestacks.

Baghouses—cloth bags used to filter gas streams, which can remove particulate emissions from smokestacks.

High-temperature incinerators that can destroy toxic pollutants.

“Merely requiring uncontrolled [coal-fired power] plants to adopt technologies that have been around for 10 to 20 years would solve air-pollution problems in this country, at least as far as smog and soot are concerned,” he said.

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