Why are we not measuring what hurts us most?
KUALA LUMPUR: The now annual haze blown in from Sumatra is considered a national hazard, with Malaysians keeping a close eye on the Air Pollutant Index (API) readings issued by the government.
But the API readings – as frightening as they turned out to be in June, when it reached an alarming 746 in Muar – do not give a true picture of the health risks we face.
Our present API readings only takes into consideration, among other things, particulate matter that measures 10 micrometres or more (or level of PM10).
However, experts point out that the haze is caused by peat fires in Sumatra and PM10 comprises only 10% of the pollutants in the smoke from these fires. The remaining 90% are PM2.5 pollutants, much smaller and thus more dangerous.
These suspended particulates cause health problems, irrespective of their size. However, the smaller the particulates, the higher the health risks.
The PM2.5 particle is especially damaging given that it also carries large amounts of toxic and harmful materials.
Isn’t it time Malaysia follow Singapore’s lead and opt for PM2.5 readings?
For more on the health risks of PM2.5 pollutants, check out The Heat, page 36 +38.
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