Singapore woke up to murky skies on Saturday as the air quality plunged into the unhealthy bracket. The 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hit a disconcerting reading of between 65 and 115 by 2pm.
Eastern regions of Singapore bore the brunt with the highest PSI reading. At the time of writing, the PSI peaked at 115 at 2pm on Saturday 7 October. The PM2.5 reading also reached a high of 87.
When Breezes Bring the Haze
The alarming dip in air quality can be attributed to the rise in the number of hotspots in Sumatra. Friday witnessed a stark increase to 212 hotspots, a notable jump from 65 on Thursday and just 15 the previous day.
The National Environment Agency (NEA) warned, “There is a likelihood of haze affecting Singapore over the coming weekend if the fires persist and wind direction is unfavourable.”
Understanding the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI)
The PSI sheds light on the air quality based on the 24-hour average concentration of various pollutants. A PSI level above 100 is considered unhealthy.
Meanwhile, the PM2.5 stands out as a key concern. It calculates air pollutants in the air. These fine particles, measuring 2.5 microns or less, can nestle deep in the lungs and pose serious health threats.
Friday night recorded elevated levels of one-hour PM2.5 in both central and eastern Singapore. The readings surpassed the 55 micrograms per cubic metre of air threshold, indicating a health risk. A pm2.5 level above 51 is considered elevated and a level above 150 is considered high.
Daily Haze Advisory to the Rescue
In response to the looming haze, the NEA has initiated daily haze advisories starting from Saturday evening. These advisories will arm the public with a 24-hour PSI forecast, empowering them to make informed decisions about their outdoor plans for the next day. Vital sectors, such as healthcare institutions, schools, and workplaces, have already received these advisories to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable groups.
A Glimpse at the Hazy Past
This isn’t Singapore’s first tryst with haze. The country has grappled with unhealthy PSI levels previously, notably in September 2019 and August 2016. However, the most severe episode was in 2015 when PSI soared past the 300 mark, compelling the Ministry of Education to close all primary and secondary schools.
Alterations to Scheduled Events
The haze’s unforgiving grip on Singapore’s air quality has forced some changes in planned events. HomeTeamNS, in a public announcement, stated that their annual Real Run 23 event will undergo changes due to the haze. The initial competitive 10km race will now be a non-competitive run, although other categories will proceed as planned.
With the government’s Haze Task Force on standby and daily advisories in place, Singapore is poised to tackle the haze head-on. However, it serves as a grim reminder of the need for regional cooperation and sustainable practices to ensure the health and well-being of residents.
For real-time updates on air quality, the public can visit www.haze.gov.sg or the myENV app.