Singapore: what’s in the air you’re breathing?

Today, Singapore’s air quality (measured in 24-hour PSI) reading was 69 as at 1900 hours, the highest so far this year. That gives it a rating of “Moderate” by most international air quality standards. (Anything over 100 is considered “Unhealthy” and poses immediate risks to children, the elderly or people with a history of bronchial diseases like asthma — like me).

The smoky air or haze is made up of a cocktail of nasty chemicals with all manner of harmful effects on your body, such as sulfur oxide (respiratory illness, reduced lung function, morbidity and mortality rates increase at higher levels), ozone (eye irritation, cough, reduced athletic performance, possible chromosome damage) and carbon monoxide (impairment of coordination, deleterious to pregnant women and those with heart and circulatory conditions).

As much as possible, stay indoors and keep the windows shut. If you have to spend extended periods of time outside, wear a mask, especially one that can filter fine dust particles. See if you can find a Honeycomb Activated Carbon Filter (ACF) Pollution Mask, though any mask is better than nothing. You can get regular updates on Singapore’s air quality here.

The haze is the result of fires in neighboring Sumatra, Indonesia and — despite Singapore’s tourism industry’s best efforts to downplay it — has become an annual event. June to September is the traditional dry season for the region and is the time when logging companies and farmers usually clear the land by razing it, resulting in a cloud of smoke that spreads across the region. I suspect carbon monoxide may well be Indonesia’s leading export.

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