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#SGHaze trends on social media as air pollution readings hit 'high'

SINGAPORE — Many Singaporeans fear the haze may be back after waking up to the smell of smoke in the air on Friday morning (Aug 26).

SINGAPORE — Many Singaporeans fear the haze may be back after waking up to the smell of smoke in the air on Friday morning (Aug 26).

The overall 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) readings had been slowly creeping since 6am in the morning when the range was at 34-51. At 4pm, the 24-hour PSI readings entered the "unhealthy" range for the first time, reaching 76-105. By 6pm, the 24-hour PSI was at 82-112. Meanwhile, the 3-hour PSI reading climbed from 31 at 6am to 215 at 2pm, but went down to 127 by 6pm. 

The hourly PM2.5 readings for finer pollutants, which the National Environment Agency (NEA) introduced bandings for in June this year, hit 216 in the West of Singapore at 12pm, in the "high" range. At the same time, the North, Central and South of Singapore were also in the "high" band at 172, 159, and 176 respectively.

As of 1pm, the PM2.5 reading in the west has dipped to 188. The highest reading seen was in the south at 198, while the east of Singapore reached the "high" banding for the first time.

At 2pm, 1-hr PM2.5 readings had dipped islandwide, except in the north. The highest PM2.5 readings were in the north and west (167), while the lowest was in the east (133).

At 3pm, the 1-hr PM2.5 readings islandwide had all dipped from the "high" to "elevated" band. And by 4pm, the east side of Singapore saw a "normal" band. However at 5pm, the whole of Singapore returned back to the "elevated" band.

In an advisory issued at 11.51am, the NEA said that the 1-hr PM2.5 concentration for the rest of the day is expected to remain in the Band III (High) and Band II (Elevated) range. Overall, the PSI for the next 12 hours is also forecast to be in the high end of the Moderate range. 

"Given the air quality forecast for the next 12 hours, everyone can continue with normal activities. Persons who are not feeling well, especially the elderly and children, and those with chronic heart or lung conditions, should seek medical attention", said the NEA.

In another statement issued at 2.38pm, the NEA however revised its health advisory, this time saying that healthy persons should reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion. They also forecasted that the 24-hour PSI readings may enter the low end of the Unhealthy range (101 and above). 

"The elderly, pregnant women and children should minimise prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion, while those with chronic lung or heart disease should avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion. Persons who are not feeling well, especially the elderly and children, and those with chronic heart or lung conditions, should seek medical attention," the NEA added.

The NEA said that from the latest satellite images, hotspots are still being detected in central Sumatra. "Although the number of hotspots is relatively few, some haze from these fires has been observed to be blown directly towards Singapore by the prevailing westerly winds".

Although the PSI readings have yet to hit alert levels, which is when the 24-hour PSI is above 100, or goes into the unhealthy range, Singaporeans are already searching for information online.

Haze was among the top trending topics on Twitter and Google, with over 5,000 searches on Google Singapore on "PSI Singapore". Related searches include 'PSI level in Singapore today', and 'PSI in Singapore now'.

(Click to enlarge)

Under #sghaze, Twitter users were quickly sharing photos of the views from their respective locations, and comments on the return of the annual plague.

One Twitter user, Ms Lynette, wrote: “Overheard on the radio: Singapore has 4 seasons – durian season, dengue season, monsoon season and apparently, it’s now haze season.”

Another Twitter user going by the handle lele wrote: “OMG, they’re actually sending air purifiers to our classrooms.”

One-hour PM2.5 concentrations of 55 micrograms per cubic metre and below are “normal”; readings of 56 to 150 are “elevated”; readings of 151 to 250 are “high”; and anything above 250 is “very high”.

But the one-hour readings are not tied to health advisories, which apply only to 24-hour PSI readings because studies on sub-daily PM2.5 exposure still do not provide a sufficient evidence base, the NEA said in June.

The 24-hour PSI forecast will also continue to be used for major decisions such as the closure of schools.

(click to enlarge)

 

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