Discussion on the Impact of Poor Air Quality at @america, Jakarta

Remarks by Ambassador Blake at a Discussion on the Impact of Poor Air Quality at @america, Jakarta

Good afternoon.  Thank you all for joining us today at this important event on the topic of our health and the air we breathe.  Special thanks to our speakers:

Sharad Adhikary, World Health Organization Indonesia

Dr. Sonny Priajaya Warouw, Ministry of Health

Dr. M. Kamaruzzaman,  Ministry of Health

Dr. Budi Haryanto, University of Indonesia

I want to first thank and commend our Government of Indonesia partners  for their cooperation to establish the Air Quality monitoring systems to help raise awareness and improve air quality here in Indonesia.

How did this program come about?  As part of US efforts to highlight and combat air pollution and climate change, the Department of State, in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is currently its expanding air quality measurement efforts overseas by installing air quality meters at many of our Embassies and Consulates.

By the end of 2016, 24 of our Embassies and Consulates around the world – in countries like Mongolia, Vietnam, Peru, and Kosovo – will manage their own AQMs.

The goals of this program are to:

enhance the availability of air quality data,

provide the information necessary for individuals to make informed health decisions, and

provide greater opportunities for the U.S. to work with our international partners, like Indonesia, as we all tackle some of the world’s most pressing transboundary environmental challenges.

The Embassy’s two air quality meters, one in Central and one in South Jakarta, measure a type of air pollution called PM 2.5, referring to particulates smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter.

These are referred to as “fine” particles and are of particular concern since they are small enough to directly enter the lungs and even the blood stream.

These PM 2.5 AQMs are part of a network that collects and reports to the public real-time air quality data, and they are currently the only AQMs in Indonesia to publish hourly data on 2.5 particulate matter.

This data is now available via the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) AirNow website, accessible through a link on our Embassy website.

(Pull up AirNow website and color-coded health chart on screen) 

Here you’ll find Jakarta’s hourly Air Quality Index readings and a color-coded chart that provides information on the potential health impacts of long-term exposure at particular air quality levels.

The air quality indices calculated using our AQM readings and the color-coded charts are the same used by U.S. cities to help their citizens make informed health decisions.

For example, an AQI value of 50 represents good air quality with little potential to affect public health, while an AQI value over 300 represents hazardous air quality.  Both the Embassy AQM’s AQI values and the raw PM 2.5 data are available on the AirNow website.

My colleagues here today from WHO, the Ministry of Health, and the University of Indonesia will elaborate, but PM 2.5 particles are linked to a number of significant negative health effects.

Chronic exposure to these particles contributes to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as lung cancer.  These effects are likely to be more severe for sensitive populations, including people with heart or lung disease, children, and older adults.

A 2013 study by the Ministry of Environment and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that 60% of the population of Jakarta suffered air pollution-related health effects including asthma and coronary disease.

The total direct health cost of these illnesses is about 38.5 trillion rupiah – or about $3 billion – per year.

In parts of Indonesia air pollution is caused by forest and peat fires that make the headlines and pose the greatest threat to communities.

In some areas, the indoor air pollution caused by indoor cookstoves presents serious health challenges.

In Jakarta, the primary cause of air pollution is transportation.  Vehicles emit a number of pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide and particulate matter.

The particulate matter that causes health problems comes in large part from fossil fuel combustion, which also emits greenhouse gases that are contributing to climate change, a long term threat to the livelihoods of all Indonesians.

With this background, I’d like to close by expressing our hope that Indonesian citizens as well as Americans living in Jakarta, and our partners in the Indonesian and local governments will be able to use this air quality data as part of your focus on environment and public health.

We look forward to continued cooperation as our two countries work together to counter climate change and to address air quality issues and other environmental challenges.