In what is possibly the first study linking the annual Southeast Asian haze to mortality in Singapore, a group of healthcare practitioners and academics from the country’s national health institutions found that drops in air quality were “significantly associated” with an increased risk of dying.
Haze caused by forest fires, ignited by slash-and-burn cultivation in neighbouring countries, blankets the region once a year, usually during the dry, hot season from July to September, and the southwest monsoon shifts the haze towards Singapore.
The study, whose lead authors work in Singhealth’s emergency medicine programme, Duke-NUS Medical School and the nation’s Health Promotion Board, found that the risk of dying increases in the short-term after exposure to “moderate” and “unhealthy” levels of haze, as classified by the country’s Pollution Standards Index.
While the study points out that its findings did not prove causation, the impacts of air pollution human health are well-established, with mounting evidence that it could be damaging every organ of the body.
“Our findings of a significant association between air pollution and mortality mostly corroborated the findings of other studies which used different measures of air quality and research designs, conducted in Australia, Europe and Asia,” stated the report.
According to the research, previous studies in Singapore have found that periods of haze see a spike in number of people seeking outpatient treatment for haze-related conditions, including respiratory tract illnesses, as well as an
Other authors of the study hail from Singapore University of Technology and Design, Singapore General Hospital, National University Health System and Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
Singapore monitors air quality around the clock and reports its findings through its National Environment Agency website and app.
Banner photo from the Wikimedia Commons