SINGAPORE – Air quality took a sharp turn for the worse on Saturday (Sept 14), with many parts of Singapore shrouded in haze.

The 24-hour PSI readings ranged between 87 and 106 at 5pm, with the highest recorded reading in western Singapore. 

PM2.5 concentration levels, which the National Environment Agency (NEA) said is a better indication of current air quality, also reached high levels at 4pm, ranging from 77 in the east to 133 in the west.

PM2.5 readings measure the concentration of tiny particles less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter – or about one-thirtieth the diameter of a human hair – in the air.  

The PM2.5 concentration readings at 4pm are much higher than the 59 to 78 recorded just an hour earlier.

According to the NEA, there are four bands on the PM2.5 concentration scale: 0 to 55 for normal, 56 to 150 for elevated, 151 to 250 for high, and very high for any higher readings.

Dr Jim Teo, a respiratory physician from Parkway East Hospital, told The Straits Times he has seen an approximate 10 per cent increase in the number of patients seeking his advice on the deteriorating air quality.

The 24-hour PSI reading at 5pm on Sept 14, 2019. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM HAZE.GOV.SG

He said these patients were usually from groups more vulnerable to changes in air quality, such as those with asthma or sensitive nasal tracts.

However, he noted that it was not yet necessary for the public to wear N95 face masks.

The 45-year-old said: “Unless you are spending long hours working outdoors, the N95 is not required below a 24-hour PSI reading of 300.”

“There are many factors contributing to the burning smell of the haze that is not necessarily correlated with the index readings.”

Many Singaporeans found the weather on Saturday too hazy for venturing outdoors.

A photo taken near the National Sailing Centre at East Coast Park shows haze in the area at around 11am on Sept 14, 2019. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Analyst Jeslyn Lerh, who lives in the west coast, said her plans to get some exercise outdoors at Bukit Timah Hill had to be changed. The 26-year-old said: “The haze foiled my plans to go trekking today. The smoke is infiltrating my apartment and we are turning on extra fans just to disperse it.”  

Clarisse Ong, who lives in Upper Bukit Timah, also had to stay indoors. The eight-year-old said: “There is a lot of haze, it’s very bad! I cannot bring my dogs to the park and play outdoors.”

A PSI reading of 101 to 200 is in the unhealthy range, for which the NEA advises the public to cut down on outdoor activities.

In addition to PSI levels, the NEA said that the health impact of haze is also dependent on one’s health status and the length and intensity of outdoor activity. Those who are not feeling well, especially the elderly and children, and those with chronic heart or lung conditions, should seek medical attention.

On Friday evening, the NEA said that it detected hot spots in both Sumatra and Kalimantan in Indonesia, although based on the prevailing wind direction, it is haze from Sumatra that has been affecting Singapore.

A total of 156 hot spots were detected in Sumatra, mainly in the central and southern parts of the Indonesian island.

The NEA predicted for the weekend to remain hazy, although there may be brief showers that could alleviate the situation.

The NEA website will provide regular updates on the haze situation.

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