Thursday, June 20, 2013

Singapore: Air Pollution Worst Than 1997, Those Affected by Contaminants Should Stay Indoors

According to The Associated Press, Singapore urged residents and visitors alike to remain indoors because of record air pollution earlier today (June 20) influenced dramatically by forest fires in neighboring Indonesia.  Nearby Malaysia closed 200 schools and banned open burning in some areas.

The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI), Singapore's main measure of air pollution, surged to a record 371, breaching the "hazardous" classification that can aggravate respiratory ailments. The previous high before this week was in 1997, when the index reached 226.

COMMENT: The haze has shrouded the city-state's skyscrapers in noxious fumes and posed numerous inconveniences, some of whom complained of coughs and covered their faces with handkerchiefs or masks while walking outdoors.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong advised residents to stay indoors as much as possible, adding that "we will get through this together."

Lee told a news conference that the haze was expected to continue for a while because of wind and weather conditions. He said a government panel was being formed to protect public health and the city-state's economic resilience.

The Department of Environment banned open burning and made it punishable by up to five years in prison in three states separated from Sumatra by the Malacca Strait.

Foreign visitors, expats and tourists, particularly the elderly and those with respiratory ailments, might well want to defer their visit to Singapore and/or Indonesia until such time as the PSI diminishes.