Air quality in 'unhealthy' range as PSI hits 113

Channel NewsAsia 14 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: Air quality in Singapore moved into the "unhealthy" range on Monday (Sep 15), with the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) three-hour reading hitting 113 at 6am. As of 7am, the three-hour reading was 111.

The three-hour PSI reading was 64 at 6pm on Sunday and it climbed to 74 at 9pm Sunday. It has since remained in the 101-200 range.

A PSI reading of 0-50 is considered "good", 51-100 is classified as "moderate", while 101-200 is in the "unhealthy" band.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has advised healthy people to reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion when the PSI is in the "unhealthy" range. The elderly, pregnant women and children should minimise such activities, which should also be avoided by people with chronic lung disease or heart disease, NEA said on its website.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan wrote in a Facebook post on Monday morning that he was monitoring the air quality with "some concern".

His post said a change in wind direction brought with it haze that had been accumulating over Sumatra for the past few days, with the western parts of Singapore especially affected, he wrote.

"There has been an escalation in hot spots in Sumatra. NEA was in touch with the Indonesian authorities last week and has urged them to take action," he wrote, adding that Singapore "stands ready" to provide assistance if necessary.

- CNA/ir

Air quality hits unhealthy range
Today Online 15 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE — Air quality worsened late last night, with the three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) creeping into the unhealthy range.

The three-hour PSI reading hovered between 61 and 69 for most of the day, before rising to 74 at 9pm. It went up to 83 an hour later, and reached 96 at 11pm. The reading hit 100 at midnight. At 1am, it was 102.

A PSI reading of 0 to 50 is considered “good”, 51 to 100 is classified as “moderate”, while 101 to 200 is “unhealthy”.

The air quality reporting was tweaked in April to incorporate levels of fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, which were previously reported separately from the PSI.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said in an update on the haze situation that the total number of hot spots detected in Sumatra decreased yesterday to 82 from 194. The reduced hot-spot count was due to partial satellite coverage.

The NEA said occasional slight haze may be experienced in Singapore if the winds blow from the south-west. It expects the overall air quality for today to be in the moderate range.

Singapore's air pollution index rises to unhealthy level
Reuters AsiaOne 15 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE - Singapore's air pollution rose to unhealthy levels on Monday, the National Environment Agency said, as winds changed direction and brought in light smoke from forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia.

Singapore is in the middle of its "haze" season, when smoke from forest clearing in Indonesia traditionally chokes the air, but this year has been practically haze free, despite warnings in May it was going to be worse than 2013's record pollution.

The three-hour Pollution Standards Index broke above 100, the level beyond which the air is considered unhealthy, at 1 a.m. and remained above that level into the daylight hours, the government agency said on its website.

The NEA warned on Sunday that if the wind blew from the southwest, Singapore could experience occasional haze from fires on Indonesia's Sumatra island.

The smoke blanketed Singapore last June, pushing the air pollution index to a record 401.

In August, Singapore's parliament passed a bill proposing fines for companies that cause pollution regardless of whether the companies operate on the island, though it remains to be seen how the law can be enforced.

Singapore air pollution soars due to Indonesian forest fires
AFP AsiaOne 15 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE - Air pollution in Singapore rose to unhealthy levels Monday, blanketing the city-state's skyline with clouds of smog from fires raging across giant rainforests in the neighbouring Indonesian island of Sumatra, officials said.

Singapore's National Environment Agency said the pollutant standards index (PSI) reached a high of 111 at 7:00 am (2300 GMT) before easing to 80 a few hours later.

A reading between 101-200 is considered "unhealthy", with people with existing heart or respiratory ailments advised to reduce physical exertion and outdoor activity.

Singapore and neighbouring Malaysia are smothered annually in varying degrees by smog from forest fires in Indonesia during the summer months from June to September.

Last year's smog was the worst since 1997-1998, when the smoke caused an estimated $9 billion in losses in economic activity across Southeast Asia.

The NEA said in a statement that the current smog is "most likely due to the hotspots (forest fires) in South Sumatra detected over the past three to four days".

"Given the continued dry weather in southern Sumatra, we can expect the hotspots to persist and the 24-hour PSI for Singapore to fluctuate between the high-end of the moderate range and the low-end of the unhealthy range for the rest of the day." White smog shrouded the city-state's skyline, with smoke wafting into the business district.

But the smog was thickest in western part of Singapore, which is nearest to Sumatra, where residents said they could smell a light acrid smell of burning foliage.

In an annual occurence, westerly monsoon winds blow smoke from the fires caused by slash-and-burn land-clearing by individuals and plantations on Sumatra, which lies across the Malacca Strait.

Last year, the PSI hit record levels in Singapore and Malaysia forcing people to wear face masks and stay indoors and prompting Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to apologise to both neighbours.

Singapore last month passed a bill that gives the government powers to fine companies that cause or contribute to the annual smog up to S$2 million, regardless of whether they have offices in the city-state.

While the new law is designed to target companies both based in Singapore and outside, observers have said enforcement will be difficult.