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Short-term exposure to PM2.5 is harmful too

High levels of tiny particles damaging to elderly and children, say experts

Published on Mar 13, 2014 8:40 AM
A slight haze at the Central Expressway near Toa Payoh at about 4.15pm yesterday. For children with asthma, even a few minutes' exposure to high levels of PM2.5 may lead to their symptoms worsening. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

While studies have established that prolonged exposure to the pollutant PM2.5 can be highly hazardous, some experts have warned that even short-term exposure can be damaging.

For the elderly, being exposed to high levels of the tiny particles for just an hour can lead to higher risks of heart attacks, a recent study suggested.

One in five children here has asthma and the symptoms may worsen if exposed to high PM2.5 levels for even a few minutes, said research scientist Erik Velasco of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology's Centre for Environmental Sensing and Modelling.

Experts said this is why the Government's decision to revise its air quality reporting system is timely. From May 1, the National Environment Agency (NEA) will add PM2.5 to its five other pollutants for calculating the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI). This means that if PM2.5 is the most significant pollutant in the air, the PSI figure will be based on it.

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Background story


A 24-hour average smooths out pollution spikes... It is not a good indicator for rapid reaction, for example, for people who work outdoors.

- Senior research scientist Santo Salinas at National University of Singapore's (NUS) Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing