Singapore shoots up 8 places on ranking of countries with the worst air in the world

View of Marina Bay Sands in Singapore at 2pm on Sept 16, 2019.
The Straits Times

It looks like Singaporeans need to brace themselves for more haze today.

The island nation, which uses the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) to measure air quality, suffered deteriorating air conditions on Wednesday (Sept 18) morning.

Readings on the National Environment Agency (NEA) website showed that at 10am, the 24-hour PSI in Singapore was considered “unhealthy” after it reached a range of 107 to 122, up from 91 to 102 on Tuesday afternoon.

The 1-hour PM2.5 readings were also categorised “Band II, Elevated” as they ranged between 89 and 119, up from 73 to 90 on Tuesday afternoon.

PSI and PM2.5 readings in Singapore at 10am on Wednesday.

As of 10am, the city had the fourth-worst air quality of all major cities worldwide, according to air pollution app AirVisual’s ranking. It ranked sixth at the same time just a day before.

Worsening air in Kuala Lumpur meant it overtook both Hanoi and Kuching on the list at 10am. Kuching, which was at first place previously, ranked second, while Jakarta ranked third.

Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore were at the top of an air pollution index that ranks major cities across the world.

But when country-wide readings are considered, Indonesia was the second-most air-polluted in the world at 10am, according to the World Air Quality Index, which ranks countries for air quality in real time.

Singapore’s ranking on the index for bad air rose, while Malaysia’s fell slightly.
World Air Quality Index

Malaysia, which ranked fourth a day before, was now at an improved sixth place. However, Singapore, which ranked 16th previously, was now home to the eighth-most polluted air in the world.

PSI could move further up unhealthy range, NEA warns

In an advisory issued on Tuesday (Sept 17) evening, NEA said that the 1-hour PM2.5 readings in Singapore were expected to fluctuate between the normal and elevated bands over the next 24 hours.

The PSI was also expected to range between the high end of “moderate” range and the low end of “unhealthy” range. Depending on wind conditions, the PSI may even enter the mid-section of the “unhealthy” range, it said.

For the next few days, the weather in Singapore and Sumatra will likely remain dry, and prevailing winds are expected to blow mainly from the southeast or south. Since hotspot activities in Sumatra will likely persist under the dry conditions, Singapore could continue to be shrouded in haze in the coming days.

NEA advised the general public against prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion, and said elderly, pregnant women and children should minimise prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion. People with chronic lung or heart disease should also avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion, while those who are ill should seek medical help.

Penang now one of the worst hit after haze-free weekend

And the situation in Malaysia isn’t great either.

On Wednesday (Sept 18) morning, a total of eight areas across the nation recorded “very unhealthy” readings, while 35 places were marked “unhealthy” on the Department of Environment’s (DOE) website’s air pollution index (API).

A woman covers her face with a scarf in front of the Malaysia’s Prime Minister’s office, in Putrajaya, Malaysia, September 17, 2019.

Among the areas with the worse air quality at 10am: Selangor’s Johan Setia (API 261), Shah Alam (221) and Petaling Jaya (206); Sri Aman in Sarawak (233); Minden (203) and Balik Pulau (API 225) on Pulau Pinang; Nilai in Negeri Sembilan (209); and Putrajaya (202).

Readings between 101 to 200 are considered “unhealthy”, while those from 201 to 300 are “very unhealthy”. Air quality is considered “hazardous” when readings cross the 300 mark.
DOE website

According to The Star, 51 schools on the southwest district of Penang island were also shut after the API there hit 204 at 7am.

This is a sudden change for Penangites, who were spared from the haze over the previous weekend, thanks to winds blowing from the west.

There is one bright spot though. Unlike Tuesday, when Sri Aman recorded readings of over 360, there were no areas in the “hazardous” range on Wednesday morning.

Klang overtook Sri Aman as Malaysia’s most air-polluted.

In Selangor, 214 schools were closed and over 231,000 students were affected, Bernama reported.


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