Haze in Singapore

You know it or have heard about it: every year the much dreaded haze is back in Singapore. What is the haze? Is it dangerous? What can you do to protect yourself? Here are all the information and advice you need.

What is the haze in Singapore ?

Every year, Indonesia increases its palm oil production by clearing many hectares of forest on the main islands of the country in order to multiply its palm plantations. To do so Indonesians set big fires during the dry season, between June and November. A huge smoke is then brought by the southern winds to Singapore, Malaysia and sometimes Thailand. This smoke in the city is called haze and looks like smog in big industrial cities.

During the haze period in Singapore, the sky is more or less « clear » but higher visibility doesn’t mean the event is over. The National Environment Agency measures the air quality through the PSI pollution standard index.

  • If the index is between 0 and 50, the quality of air is good.
  • Between 51 and 100, pollution is moderate.
  • Between 101 and 300, the quality of air is bad. You should minimise outdoor activities or avoid them if you are a pregnant woman, an elderly person or suffer from chronic lung disease.
  • Over 300, the index is very high and the air threatens your health. Avoid going out as much as possible.

What are the risks ?

The haze in Singapore generally irritates your throat, which makes you cough, and your eyes, which become red and swollen. Symptoms are similar to those of a cold: running nose and headaches.
If you suffer from lung or respiratory disease or other conditions such as eczema or conjunctivitis, a prolonged exposure to the haze may cause further complications, depending on the length of exposure. People prone to heart problems should also reduce outdoor activities.
To date, there is no statistically proven link between the haze and lung cancer in Singapore. However scientists do not exclude a possible link with the development of asthma in young children, who have been exposed to the haze for a long time.

What to do when there is haze ?

Watch out through the day the official website dedicated to the haze in Singapore. The PSI is updated every hour and the website provides with many advice to lower the impact of the haze on your health.

During an air pollution peak (PSI above 101), minimise your outdoor activities and moves. Pregnant women, elderly persons, young children and people suffering from heart or lung conditions should avoid going out as much as possible.

If you go out, wear a N95 or a surgical mask. You can buy a box of 20 masks for approximately 50 SGD in medical centres, hospitals and pharmacies in Singapore. However some merchants increase their prices during pollution peaks.

Clean your air conditioning system at home if you haven’t done so for a while and keep the doors and windows closed at home or at the office. Do not open the car windows.

Avoid rooftops or outdoor bars and restaurants in Singapore and go for indoor activities instead during the haze.

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Date of publication Mar 23 2016