Singapore haze clearing up

Singapore haze clearing up

UPDATED [7.30pm 23 June 2013: The National Environment Agency (NEA) said during a press briefing on Sunday evening that the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) for the next 24 hours is expected to be in the moderate band (51-100).

People are advised to minimise prolonged outdoor activity. NEA explained that the health advisory follows that of the unhealthy band (101-200) because it has taken into account the high PM2.5 levels.

Dr Derrick Heng, Ministry of Health (MOH) group director for public health group, also said that the N95 masks are not certified for use in children, as they do not fit well for them. He added that currently there are no masks on the market suitable for children. That's because there is no demand for N95 masks for children as such masks are usually manufactured for industrial use. Thus, he said children should remain indoors as much as possible. 

NEA also launched a new micro-site on haze at 8pm on Sunday.]

[1:30pm 23 June 2013: The National Environment Agency said at noon Sunday that air quality in Singapore improved last night and this was sustained in the morning Sunday.

The 24-hour PSI band stood at 88-98. The improvement in the air quality was due to the change in the direction of low level winds over Singapore, from south-westerly to southerly, since last night, the agency said.

The 24- hour PSI for the rest of Sunday is expected to be in the Unhealthy band (101-200) instead of the earlier forecast of 201-300, it added.

People are advised to minimise prolonged outdoor activity.]

Singapore may have breathed a bit of fresh air Saturday afternoon but authorities don’t expect the smoke-free air to last.

“An improvement in the hazy conditions today was due to a temporary area free of dense haze upwind of Singapore, and transient changes in the local wind conditions,” the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on its website Saturday evening.

Up to early Sunday evening, “hazy conditions can still be expected as dry conditions and winds blowing from the southwest or west persist”, it added.

It also warned that the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) for the next 24 hours was expected to be in the “very unhealthy” band of 201 to 300.

At that level, the elderly, pregnant women, children, as well as persons with chronic lung disease, heart disease  or stroke are advised to avoid all outdoor activity and wear an N95 mask if such activity could not be avoided.

Singapore’s three-hour PSI reading fell to double digit or "moderate" levels in the afternoon Saturday after climbing to the “hazardous” level of over 300 in the morning, which followed days of record-breaking haze levels.At 7pm Saturday, the 24-hour PSI reading was 161-182.

In a press briefing early Saturday evening, authorities also again reiterated that the 24-hour PSI reading was a better indicator of the haze situation than the three-hour reading.

In a further bid to throw the spotlight on the 24-hour PSI readings, the NEA also revamped the PSI section of its website to highlight the 24-hour data, replacing the table of three-hour PSI readings that had been prominently displayed before.

Meanwhile, officials also assured that Singapore has sufficient stocks of N95 masks to meet the public’s needs.

Derrick Heng, Ministry of Health public health group director, said local communities could start receiving free N95 masks by Sunday morning.

Government earlier announced that one million of the masks, which block out most fine particles, would be given to 200,000 households for free.

Tan Gee Keow, Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources deputy secretary for planning, urged the public not to hoard the face masks and to consider using them only when recommended under the health advisories.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law K Shanmugam said the city-state hoped to see strong, firm and effective action being taken in Indonesia against companies found to engage in illegal burning resulting in the regional haze situation.

Singapore's Attorney General is also considering what action Singapore can take locally against such proven errant companies.

-- With reporting by Peace Chiu