Many may not be aware that these mural paintings along EDSA are actually air purifiers which are part of Boysen's Project EDSA (Everyone Deserves Safe Air). This air-cleaning street art movement has ​been ​replicated in various parts of the world.

Philippines leads global eco-revolution vs. air pollution

Metro Manila – It is common for many commuters in Metro Manila to wipe a layer of soot from their faces. Skin irritation and breakouts are just some of the annoying inconveniences roadside pollution can cause, but what could happen if we are consistently exposed to these noxious pollutants and inhale it straight into our lungs?

The World Bank reported that 5,000 premature deaths in NCR can be attributed to the poor quality of air in the region. The world-renowned Manila traffic poses a more serious threat than just testing everyone’s patience.

One of the most harmful air pollutants is Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) produced by the combustion of fossil fuels such as in automobile engines. Though the body can tolerate a minimal amount of NOx, the sheer number of vehicles passing through our major thoroughfares like EDSA often makes NOx readings exceed the World Health Organization (WHO) standard of 40 micrograms per cubic meter. In EDSA, for instance, NOx levels in EDSA can reach up 300 on certain days, according to Johnson Ongking, Vice President of Pacific Paint (Boysen) Philippines, Inc.

During the recently held “SOLB!: A Sustainable Solutions Fair” organized by Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) Ongking raised the alarming issue of air pollution and presented one of its solutions – an innovative product that can make almost every surface into an air purifier.

“The best way to address pollution obviously is to not produce pollution in the first place. If we can commit to pollution-free transport: walk or bike or take the MRT, that’s the best solution. But unfortunately this is what Metro Manila looks like on most days – hazy. Most of us have to travel through motor vehicles going to work so most of us are part of the problem,” he said.

Boysen worked with Cristal, a leading company in ultrafine titanium dioxide technology. This photocatalytic technology – utilized primarily to reduce pollutants produced by coal power plants – uses the sunlight to breakdown NOx into harmless substances.

He said, “What we thought about is what if we put air purifiers along our major roads? We said how about we use that base technology and put that in a paint so that we could take out the NOx that still goes out in the air. This is how Boysen KNOxOUT came to be.”

Through this paint, the Guadalupe MRT station in Makati was transformed into a gigantic air purifier, one of the world’s largest. But it did not stop there. Unknown to many, the mural paintings adorning many walls along EDSA are in fact air purifiers which not only help reduce the risk of people getting sick but also provide commuters and pedestrians a visual treat.

“Project EDSA, in short for ‘Everyone Deserves Safe Air’ is the first street art project in the world with air cleaning component,” Ongking said.

Just like how the world was inspired by the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution, many countries soon imitated the eco-revolution initiated by the Filipino company in their most polluted places.

“Many cities in the world have also followed our example here in the Philippines, like the mural paintings in Lima, Peru that was done during the UN Climate talks in the city in 2014. Sakai City in Japan also has its own version of this air cleaning street art revolution in their streetcar stops. The façade of a building in Mexico City coated with this paint even drew a tweet from Leonardo diCaprio before he won the Oscars,” Ongking shared.

According to him, everyone can do his part in this advocacy. He said people using KNOxOUT to paint several square meters of surface can reduce and even potentially eliminate his NOx footprint.

He also encouraged companies to take part as well in bringing this life-saving technology to many parts of Metro Manila and the whole country.

“Individuals and corporations can do this. One of the first companies that joined this was Shell which now uses KNOxOUT for their stations. Petron followed soon and they’re doing this not only for their stations in the Philippines but also in Malaysia,” Ongking said.

PBSP held the forum and exhibit dubbed “SOLB!: A Sustainable Solutions Fair” at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel to present a whole range of CSR expressions and provide companies a platform to showcase their own sustainable solutions as well as the opportunity to network and form linkages to work together for a common cause.

Moreover, these innovative solutions contribute to the attainment of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, a set of goals agreed upon by UN member states which aims to end all forms of poverty in 2030.

Aside from Pacific Paint (Boysen) Philippines, the event was participated in by speakers from First Gen Corporation, Jollibee Group Foundation, Nestle Philippines, PLDT, Smart Communications, Unionbank of the Philippines, United Laboratories, XEPTO Computing, and the United Nations