Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP), conducted a symposium on the effects of urban air quality on health. Dr Erik Velasco from Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology told reporters that the pollution from road traffic affects the middle floor residents more than the ground floor ones. He also added that apart from the transboundary haze from Indonesia, Singapore’s air quality is not as clean as it appears because of over one million cars, the second largest refinery complex in the world, all ships coming from China to Europe, factories, construction and many types of emission sources throwing up pollutants.
Currently, the National Environment Agency’s (NEA) website provides only real-time figures for PM2.5 and nitrogen oxide. Hourly average figures are provided for four other air pollutants: Carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone and PM10. Construction activity — one of the major sources of pollution affects people living on lower floors near construction sites. Smaller particles can affect the lung and even enter the bloodstream leading to respiratory illnesses or even heart-related illnesses. Singaporeans have to delve into the science behind pollution to conclude if it is safe to be outside.
As for tackling sources of pollution, Dr Velasco said reducing road traffic — a major source of pollution — investing in public transport and encouraging cycling and walking could help. He also suggested stricter regulations such as fuel restrictions for passing ships. “In Europe and the United States, it’s mandatory for the ships when they approach the coast to switch to burn clean fuels (which emit less sulphur dioxide),” he said, adding this should be implemented here.