With the combination of strong winds, dry weather and forest fires in neighbouring areas likely to produce hazy conditions in Singapore in the coming days and weeks, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has started issuing a daily PSI (Pollutant Standards Index) bulletin which measures the air quality, and a health advisory.
What does this mean for you as a resident of Singapore? Should you be worried about the haze harming your health?
According to experts, since the haze (its primary air pollutant is particulate matter, PM 10 and PM 2.5) typically affects Singapore during the southwest monsoon season (June-September) and is not prevalent throughout the year, it mostly has a short-term impact.
Healthy adults can withstand short-term exposure to unhealthy air (PSI 101-200) without experiencing any major health problems and may just suffer irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, which can resolve on its own.
However, exposure to unhealthy air even for a few days may be harmful for pregnant women and those with weakened immunity such as children, the elderly and individuals with chronic lung conditions, (e.g. asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – COPD) as well as heart problems.
Singapore’s Ministry of Health advises all residents:
“You are encouraged to use published PSI readings to plan your activities during hazy conditions. Reducing outdoor activities and physical exertion against escalating PSI values can help limit the ill effects from haze exposure.”
How to protect yourself from the haze
For healthy individuals, the best way to protect yourself from the haze is to “reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion” when the air is unhealthy. When the air is very unhealthy (PSI 201-300), prolonged outdoor physical exertion should be avoided and when it is hazardous (PSI >300) all outdoor activity should be minimised.
For children and all other individuals, however, MOH advises that all outdoor activity be minimised or avoided altogether once the air quality crosses PSI 200.
Additionally, healthy individuals can take the following precautions against the haze:
Roll up your car windows when you are out
Keep the doors and windows closed at home and use an air purifier
Clean the filters regularly if you are using an air conditioner
Wear a N95 mask, and ensure it fits well, if you have to be outdoors for long periods when the air is hazardous
Keep yourself hydrated by drinking more water than usual – this flushes toxins from the kidneys and also relieves a dry and itchy throat
Build up your immunity with a healthy diet that includes vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables and vitamin E-rich nuts and seeds