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  • Shirlyn Lee

Perspectives for Surviving the Haze

Hazy Weather in Singapore in 2019
Hazy Weather in Singapore in 2019

It's that time of the year again. South East Asia has hit a dry spell. While we're safe from the raging fires in Singapore, our neighbours aren't so lucky. The weekend reported more than a few hundred hotspots around us with the death tolls increasing.

I'm definitely not here to argue who's at fault or what can be done. I'm writing this post to share a few opinions I've gathered from friends who'd be better to advice about the topic of keeping our children safe during the haze.

Technology has made it really easy to read up and do a little bit of self-learning. But from the basic PSI measure used maybe 20 years ago, they've included more measures for higher accuracy and perhaps a bit of confusion too.

Here's a good article from TODAYonline that sums up the definitions as well as what they mean and which measure you should be looking at.

In a nutshell, this is generally what the government says about the haze.

PSI or Pollutant Standards Index

- Main measure of air quality in Singapore.

- Usually an average of the last 24 hours.

- Best for major decisions or planning ahead.


- Tiny particles that are no larger than 2.5 micrometres (microns) in size.

- Main pollutant during haze.

- Potentially the most harmful to human health.

- Able to penetrate deep into the lungs and bloodstream.

- Indicative measure of current air quality.

- Best for immediate decisions (e.g., whether you should be heading outdoors in the next few hours)

AQI or Air Quality Index

- Alternative measure of air quality on top of PSI and PM2.5.


Getting all of that out of the way, let's get back to what I found interesting. With the haze reaching unhealthy levels on Saturday, a very dear friend of mine went something along the lines of "What?? You're still working today? That's mad! The haze is very bad. Swimming is definitely not advised." Well, that came from a general surgeon.

With that, I decided to shoot a few text messages out and also verbally spoke with a few friends in the environmental and medical industries. I asked a simple question - "At what air quality would you recommend keeping children indoors and away from physical activities?"

I apologise in advance because I did not get clearance to use their names. However, I don't think that's of much importance Here's what they had to say.

"For older kids (4 and above), they should be staying indoors once the PSI hits 100. For infants, I'd probably recommend keeping them indoors once the PSI hits 50." - A Paediatrician

"That's a tough question but I would follow the guidelines set by NEA - on the conservative side. And by the way, my air quality monitor at home shows a PM2.5 concentration that is double what the government is saying on the NEA website." - A/prof in Urban Studies

"If I had to put a number on it, I'd recommend keeping children indoors from PSI 100. You have to also factor in the individual's medical history and how he's feeling at that point in time." - A/prof in Ear Nose Throat (ENT) department.


I personally found it really insightful to receive their comments about the present conditions.

At the end of the day, this is my personal advice to all of you.

1) Follow and track the current conditions using the resources available. My favourite on the go apps include:

- myENV (haze and weather)

- SG Weather (haze and weather)

- Haze @ SG (haze)

- Weather @ SG (haze and weather)

- The Weather Channel (weather)

2) As efficiently as all our haze updates get to us, always trust your own instincts and rely on yourself to be you and your child's best gauge. Look around you and take a deep breath (or not) to determine how bad the haze is around you. When it comes to your child/children, always watch closely to see if they sniffle, cough or sneeze more than usual or whether their voice has changed a little. These are all telltale signs to keep you and your loved ones indoors away from the pollutants in the air.

If you've got to change or cancel plans, do it! It's not worth the health of those around you!


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