No data on long-term impact of transboundary haze: MOH

Any research on this would be “highly challenging” as results would be based on observational studies, says Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min.
Channel NewsAsia 29 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: There is currently no data – both locally or internationally – that looks into the long-term health impact of transboundary haze, Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min said in Parliament on Friday (Jan 29).

Any research on this would be “highly challenging” as results would be based on observational studies, which would not be able to show a definite cause-and-effect relationship, Dr Lam said in response to a question by Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leon Perera.

“For example, it would be difficult to determine that intermittent exposure to haze 20 years ago caused the chronic obstructive airways disease in a person, since it could also have been caused by other factors such as smoking, previous lung infection, or existing lung diseases,” Dr Lam said.

However, there have been overseas studies based on long-term exposure to haze – different from the short-term, episodic haze that Singapore experiences, he said.

“These studies show that continuous, long-term exposure to air pollutants over several years may result in lung function abnormalities in children and subsequently, in adulthood. This could lead to greater susceptibility to the effects of ageing, infection and other pollutants, such as tobacco smoke, in adults.”

Short-term exposure to haze may cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, although such irritation usually resolves on its own, Dr Lam noted. In individuals with pre-existing chronic heart or lung diseases, short term exposure may trigger an episode or exacerbate the underlying diseases, such as an asthma attack, he added.

Several measures have been put in place to help Singaporeans in times of haze, such as distributing care packs and masks to the needy and implementing the Haze Subsidy Scheme, which provided subsidies of S$3.3 million last year with more than 77,000 haze-related attendances. Air purifiers will also be installed in classrooms of schools by July, Dr Lam said.

- CNA/cy

Over S$3.3 million disbursed under haze scheme last year
STACEY LIM Today Online 29 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE — More than S$3.3 million were paid out under the haze subsidy scheme last year – helping over 77,000 haze-related attendances GP clinics and polyclinics - due to the trans-boundary haze.

This was revealed by Minister of State (Health) Lam Pin Min in Parliament today in response to a question filed by Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera, who asked the ministry whether it can provide data on the long-term impact of children’s exposure to haze in terms of the likelihood of developing respiratory illnesses, and the estimated healthcare cost of this impact.

In 2013 - the previous time the scheme kicked in – almost S$500,000 was provided for more than 17,000 haze-related attendances.

Dr Lam said that it would be difficult to ascertain the direct long-term health effects due to the episodic exposure to haze, as there could be many contributing factors to the long-term health outcome. Nevertheless, the short-term effects of haze on school-going children include irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. Short term exposure for individuals with pre-existing chronic heart or lung diseases may also trigger an episode or exacerbate the underlying diseases, such as an asthma attack.

Apart from widely-publicised health advisories, the Ministry of Health have put in place several measures to protect and enhance the health and well-being of Singaporeans. For example, the ministry has worked with community partners to distribute care packs and masks to the needy, ensure there are adequate supplies of protective masks in the market, educate the public and raise awareness of the health effects of the haze.

Dr Lam said the ministry has also welcomed the efforts by ST Dynamics to develop N95-equivalent masks that can fit children’s face, and has school continuity plans in place to take appropriate haze management measures. On Wednesday, the Ministry of Education also outlined its plan to provide air purifiers to all primary and secondary schools.

“Most importantly, we want to prevent haze from occurring in the first place. To this end, Singapore is working closely with neighbouring countries to tackle the haze issue, which is largely caused by irresponsible business practices,” Dr Lam added.

More than S$3.3m disbursed under Haze Subsidy Scheme last year: Lam Pin Min
The funds helped subsidise the cost of more than 77,000 visits to clinics and polyclinics to seek treatment for haze-related conditions, says the Minister of State for Health.
Channel NewsAsia 29 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: More than S$3.3 million was disbursed under the Haze Subsidy Scheme last year, revealed Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min in Parliament on Friday (Jan 29). The funds helped subsidise the cost of more than 77,000 visits to clinics and polyclinics to seek treatment for haze-related conditions.

He was responding to Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera, who asked for data on the long-term effects of children's exposure to haze and the estimated healthcare cost of this impact.

The scheme was first introduced in 2013 and close to S$500,000 in Government subsidies was provided for more than 17,000 haze-related visits to clinics.

According to Dr Lam, it is difficult to ascertain the direct long-term health effects caused by episodic exposure to haze, as there could be other factors involved. He noted that there is currently no local or international data on this, and conducting research will be highly challenging, as it will be based on observational studies alone and will not be able to show a definite cause-and-effect relationship.

However, Mr Lam said the short-term impact of haze is well-documented, such as the irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. Those with chronic heart or lung diseases may also suffer an asthma attack.

Said Dr Lam: “Most importantly, we want to prevent haze from occurring in the first place. To this end, Singapore is working closely with neighbouring countries to tackle the haze issue, which is largely caused by irresponsible business practices.”

- CNA/xk

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