Sunday, 23 June 2013

How does haze hurt your body?

MOH advisory on haze

Emergency 101 on health advisory

How to minimise health impact of haze

People with heart or respiratory diseases, as well as young children and elderly, should avoid going outdoors whilst the haze lasts in Singapore, advise experts. Even if you don’t have a pre-existing health condition, you should reduce your outdoor physical activity when the air quality is hazy and unhealthy 

The National Environment Agency (NEA) issued these air pollution health warnings in Singapore after the air quality on 17 June 2013 reached an unhealthy reading of 155 on the Pollutants Standards Index (PSI, a 3-hour average). However, the PSI reading went up to the hazardous level of 400 on 21 June (11am), the worst in Singapore’s history. In September 1997, the PSI reading had reached a high of 226.

A PSI reading of 0-50 is considered good, 51-100 is moderate, 101-200 is unhealthy, 201-300 is very unhealthy and above 300 is hazardous.

Ways to protect yourself from the hazeTake the following steps to protect yourself from the haze in Singapore:
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a mask when you go out – make sure you get a mask that can catch tiny particles below 0.3 microns.
  • Keep the doors and windows of your home closed.
  • Roll up the windows of your car if you are driving.
  • Use an air-conditioner in your home to help remove pollutants.
  • Use an air ionizer or air purifier to catch very small particles.
  • Drink more water than usual – this helps the kidneys flush out any toxins absorbed through the skin and lungs.
  • Cut down on coffee and alcohol – these promote fluid loss and leach nutrients from the body.
  • Build up your immunity with foods rich in vitamin C (oranges, guava, strawberries), vitamin E (nuts and seeds) and omega-3 fatty acids (oily fish).
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The haze season is back, and you are feeling the effects of it.

Short of moving to a foreign country with pristine air until the wind blows all the smog away, it is difficult to completely escape the haze. However, there are ways to reduce your discomfort and alleviate your symptoms.

Here are some of them.

1) Avoid exposure

2) Stay indoors and keep the air clean

3) Wear a mask

4) Alleviating the symptoms

5) Home and natural remedies

6) Change your diet 

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What you can do in such a haze is:

1. Don’t be psychologically sensitive, it’s air pollution due to ashes. As long as you do not purposely go and inhale for 24 hours as if you have panted after exercises, it’d be ok.

2. Such haze’s major problem is dryness. It’s about the same as if you are in an air-con condition. Drink plenty of water and apply lotion to your skin, especially the face. 

3. The real health concern comes from particles which induce cancers especially for those over 30yr, so drink plenty of green tea. Do not just drink those packaged drinks, but the tea bag versions.

4. Note that the pollution is more concentrated the higher the level is, which is… your children who are about less than 1.2m will not feel that much affected than your wild imagination they will be. This is due to natural pressure pushing upward from the vapors and carbon dioxide and other atmospheric gases, especially in the morning. Part of the reason why such haze usually got better is due to moisture or breathing from trees and other plants creating a temporary pressure upward in massive scale, slowing the dispersion of pollutants. 

5. Clean your filers in the air-con. The fact that these particles can break the sea barriers means they are not small.

6. For those who don’t have air-cons and you are really having a bad them, wet sheets of long stretches of clothes, the static ion charges of water may if you place them at openings and have a wide (not deep) container filled with water so that diffusion and help prevent dryness. 

7. Technically speaking, the current masks are not really useful. The fact is, if the haze is REALLY serious, the parties will infect your eyes… making your eyes having severe immune response called inflammation. For healthy lungs, your lungs should be able to filer those particles. So the main problem is really the eyes and those breathing cells on your body. So eye-drops are really more useful than masks.

8. For parents with babies who can walk, there is no need to be too paranoid. Children’s bodies secrete enzymes which protects them from ‘testing’ particles, and their skin protection is the best. And their body is filled with a certain enzyme which helps heal and recovery very fast. They may be affected if the children are in buildings with open windows, but most of them should be ok at ground levels. There is no need to panic so much. If the haze is really toxic, the first to go will be adults. It’s ok to bring them from home to the bus stop or MRT station, HOWEVER that doesn’t mean it’s ok to stroll the park now. Babies may develop asthma given prolonged exposure

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Will an N95 or a surgical mask protect you from haze?

A man wearing a mask walks past the skyline of Singapore's business district, which has been blanketed in haze, as the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) climbs up to 401 at 12pm (0400 GMT), June 21, 2013

According to the Health Promotion Board,  haze particles are predominantly made up of fine particles that are 2.5 micrometers or smaller, and that N95 masks are efficient against fine particles that are about 0.1 – 0.3 microns.

“It protects at least 95 per cent of PM 2.5 (particulate matter 2.5), which causes the most harm during the haze,” Dr Lee Yeow Hian, a respiratory physician from Mount Elizabeth Novena, said in a phone interview with Yahoo! Singapore.

The N95 respirator mask also provides the tightest fit to the face and users can ensure this by adjusting its straps, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website (FDA).

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Govt debunks PSI rumours

A worker wearing a mask holds a stop sign as he directs traffic along the East Coast Park in Singapore as haze engulfs the island state, June 21, 2013

DON'T spread false information on the haze.

That was Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin's call even as the country is getting a temporary respite from the haze. He noted in a Facebook post yesterday that some people have fabricated falsehoods on the haze situation.

These include claims that the National Environment Agency (NEA) changed a three-hourly Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading for 10pm last Wednesday from 393 to the actual value of 321 on its website. A photo of a screenshot with the 393 figure was also shared online. "It was a lie. The photo was doctored... It is unfortunate that this is happening amid this present situation," he said

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NEA: Online PSI figure wasn't edited

Some doubts were cast on the accuracy of the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) when a photo with a PSI reading of 393 at 10pm last Wednesday was purportedly taken off the National Environment Agency's (NEA's) website.

The actual reading on the site was updated as 321 instead. This led some people to think that the NEA had edited the three-hourly PSI reading to a lower figure.

When contacted by My Paper on this, the NEA clarified last Friday that the reading was not edited nor tampered with.

Focus on 24-hour PSI, not 3-hour average

Singaporeans should focus on the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading rather than the three-hour PSI, as the latter is not the best indicator of the health impact of the haze.

Making this point on Friday was Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Grace Fu, who said: "The health impact of the air pollutants is actually determined both by the concentration and also the duration of exposure."

She added: "The 24-hour measurements are a better reflection of the total (length of) exposure of an individual to the particulate matter.

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Pollutant Standards Index — Facts, Opinions and Dangerous Misperceptions

Singapore's National Environment Agency ("NEA") uses the Pollutant Standards Index ("PSI") together with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards developed by US Environmental Protection Agency.

As the haze in Singapore started to worsen, NEA published the 3-hour PSI readings from 6 a.m. to midnight and the 24-hour pollutant concentrations three times daily 

How PSI Is Computed -PSI is determined from the concentrations of the following five pollutants (measured in micrograms per cubic metre): respirable particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and carbon monoxide.  The concentration of each pollutant is then converted to a PSI sub-index ranging from 0 to 500.[1]

* When the 8-hour ozone concentration exceeds 785 μg/m3, the PSI sub-index is calculated using the 1-hour ozone concentration
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What does PSI mean

The difference between PSI 3-hr and PSI 24-hrWhat does “PSI” meanPSI stands for 'Pollutant Standards Index'. It is an index developed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to provide accurate, timely and easily understandable information about daily levels of air pollution. The figure is derived by averaging data collected for the past 24 hours. Different PSI values indicate different air quality levelsPSI stands for 'Pollutant Standards Index'. It is an index developed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to provide accurate, timely and easily understandable information about daily levels of air pollution. The figure is derived by averaging data collected for the past 24 hours. Different PSI values indicate different air quality levels
PSI stands for 'Pollutant Standards Index'. It is an index developed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to provide accurate, timely and easily understandable information about daily levels of air pollution. The figure is derived by averaging data collected for the past 24 hours. Different PSI values indicate different air quality levels

PSI Value
Air Quality Descriptor
Very unhealthy
Above 300

Air pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide and particulate matter called PM10 (particulate matter of 10 microns or smaller in size) are used in the determination of the index. More information on the computation of PSI levels can be found here.

What is the difference between 24-hr PSI, 3-hr PSI and PM2.5 readings?

24-hr PSI
3-hr PSI
PM 2.5 Readings
  • Derived based on data collected for the past 24 hours
  • Can be based on PM10 concentrations  or PM2.5 concentrations
  • Derived by averaging data collected for the past three hours
  • Introduced in 1997 and unique to Singapore, it provides additional and more current information
  • Based on PM10* concentration
Based on PM2.5 concentrations
*PM 10 - particulate matter of 10 microns or smaller in size

Why is there a need for both 24-hr PSI and 3-hr PSI

The 24-hr PSI index system adopted by Singapore is based on continuous measurements of five key air pollutants in the air (particulate matter PM10, ozone, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide). The index is based on average values taken over a 24-hr period in accordance with the United States Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. The index is not a composite index and is based on the pollutant that has the highest concentration over a 24-hr period. During haze, the pollutant that records the highest concentration is PM10.

The 3-hr PSI is computed based on the 3-hr average PM10 concentrations. The introduction of the hourly reporting of the 3-hr PSI during the 1997 smoke haze episode to give public additional information on the current air quality situation as it varies from hour to hour. NEA has been reporting the 3-hr PSI readings every hour from 6am to 12 midnight for the present haze situation and will be extending this to round the clock from today.

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What is slash-and-burn?
A patch of land being cleared by burning in Indonesia

This is a technique used to clear patches of land - forest or peats - for plantation.

Under this practise, farmers cut down part of the vegetation on a patch of land and then set fire to the remainder. When started on peats, the fire is extremely difficult to control or stop.

These fires produce a thick smog and release a huge volume of greenhouse gases. The current haze is being caused by fires in Sumatra in Indonesia, much of which is a giant peat bog.

Indonesia's government has outlawed the use of fire to clear land.

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What is Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) based on?

Updated chart showing Singapore's PSI air pollution index since Monday. During a haze, it is usually based on the concentration of PM10, which are very small particles that are 10 microns or smaller

During a haze, it is usually based on the concentration of PM10, which are very small particles that are 10 microns or smaller.

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Haze #sghaze

– Rationality of Faith: Some Devilish Thought Experiments on the Haze
– Dewdrop Notes 露语 : Rasa Sayang Haze
– DKSG: Singapore behaving like a child?
– PetuniaLee™: Fire Fighting Planes
– Breakfast Network: Politically hazy bullying
– Breakfast Network: Act on the haze: protecting our workers
– Blogging for Myself: Haze: SG govt acts
– From the Desk of a Recruiter: A social disease – Cynicism
– Singapore Life & Times: Cry the beloved country
– Singapore Actually: Blue Skies, I Miss You
– S M Ong: Relive the good old days of double-digit PSI with PCK on TV
– Abdillah Zamzuri: Haze You Ever Wondered?
– A Yummy Slice of Life: Our Recommendation: SELL
– smallwheelsbigsmile: Hazy day in Singapore and cycling to work
– Anonymous_X: Agung Indonesian Minister who accused Spore behaving like a child
– ALVINOLOGY: Indonesia Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare, Agung Laksono
– Singapore Sojourn: Polar Blasts and Hazy Recollections
– Where Bears Roam Free: Haze issue: I was right, Indonesia gives PAP govt payback
– Random Thoughts. A Whimsical World. : Smoke gets in my Eyes, Singapore
– Expat Bostonians: Singapore Haze
– Pam Petite: What I hope the Prime Minister will say about the haze
– Singapore Armchair Critic: Finding a Way Out of the Haze
– Time for PAP government to show leadership and mettle
– TOC: TOC Editorial: Put people before profits, issue stop-work on outdoor manual work
– Publichouse: MOM Minister criticised for not issuing Stop-Work Order
– New Nation: Haze no match for S’porean ingenuity
– Singapore Business Review: Depressing possible business threat from the Spore haze
– RSIS Commentaries: Haze over SEAsia: Battling Transboundary Pollution Together

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