Haze situation in Singapore under the scanner, NEA issues haze advisories

Haze situation in Singapore comes under the scanner once again, as NEA starts issuing daily haze advisories...

Haze situation in Singapore comes under the scanner once again, after more hotspot activities were detected over parts of Sumatra and western Kalimantan in Indonesia in recent weeks. 

According to The Straits Times, the National Environmental Agency (NEA) has started issuing daily haze advisories from Aug 4, and is monitoring the haze and weather situation in the region, especially with drier weather conditions persisting in central and southern Sumatra.

In it's advisory, NEA says, "For the next few days, the prevailing winds over Singapore and the surrounding region are forecast to blow from the south-southeast. With dry weather conditions forecast to persist in parts of central and southern Sumatra, an increase in hotspot activities can be expected."

In Singapore, so far there's been no cause for panic. The latest advisory says, "For the next 24 hours, the 24-hr PSI is forecast to be in the low end of the Moderate range, and the 1-hr PM2.5 concentration readings are expected to be in Band I (Normal)."

"The health impact of haze is dependent on one’s health status, the PSI level, and the length and intensity of outdoor activity. Reducing outdoor activities and physical exertion can help limit the ill effects from haze exposure."

"Given the air quality forecast for the next 24 hours, everyone can continue with normal activities. Persons who are not feeling well, especially the elderly and children, and those with chronic heart or lung conditions, should seek medical attention."

What you need to know about haze in Singapore

Thankfully, Singapore is not affected by haze throughout the year. Hence the exposure to haze particles is usually short-term.

The 'Pollutant Standards Index' (PSI) is used to provide accurate information about daily levels of air quality. A PSI of 0-50 is considered good, while 50-100 is moderate. PSI > 100 is considered unhealthy. 

haze situation in Singapore

Haze particles can affect the heart and lungs, especially in people with chronic heart or lung conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or heart failure.

Short term exposure to high levels of haze particles may cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat in healthy individuals. Such irritation usually resolves on its own when the haze clears.

In general, children, elderly, and people with existing health conditions are more sensitive to the health effects of haze, and should adopt preventive measures when air quality is poor. Pregnant women should especially reduce exposure to haze for the health of their unborn baby. In case of breathing difficulties it is best to see a doctor.

Meanwhile, here are some tips in case of a bad haze situation in Singapore:

  • If the outdoor air quality is really bad, close the doors and windows. This will help to reduce the rate of haze particles entering the home.
  • Stay indoors and reduce physical activities.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay well hydrated.
  • Re-open the windows and doors in the home when the outdoor air quality improves.
  • Wet-cleaning methods (e.g. mopping or wiping) generally do not produce dust (unlike dry-dusting or vacuuming) and can be performed to remove settled dust.
  • Fans or air-conditioners may be used for air circulation and cooling. If the air-conditioner draws in unfiltered air from outside (e.g. window units), close the outdoor air intake opening.
  • Portable air purifiers can be used to further reduce the indoor particle level.
  • Minimise activities that can produce indoor air pollutants in enclosed spaces, e.g. smoking.
  • If PSI> 200, and you are in the high risk group (chronic heart or lung conditions, elderly, pregnant women etc) or if your job requires you to be outdoors for several hours, it is advisable to reduce exposure by wearing a N95 mask.

Studies have shown that N95 masks do provide good protection against particle pollutants as they are at least 95% efficient against fine particles that are about 0.1 – 0.3 microns. N95 masks only work if there is a good fit with the face of the wearer. 

However do note that, you should consult a doctor if using these masks makes you uncomfortable and you encounter difficulty in breathing, tiredness or headache.

Also READ: Haze situation in Singapore- facts and precautions

(Source: NEA, The Straits Times)