HEALTH

It’s Raining Birds in Singapore

Air Pollution Index (PSI) reading today at 11am has surpassed 400! OMG. If you don’t think this is a big deal, let me put it in perspective: PSI 100 is the threshold for “unhealthy”. Above PSI 200 is the threshold for “very unhealthy”. Above PSI 300 is the threshold for downright “hazardous”. And we are pass 400. See the problem? It is also worth a mention that more people die from air pollution (and the effects of) than AIDS and malaria combined.

The worse is yet to come.

I am really not sure how seriously the Indonesian government views this environmental crisis given their recent accusation that Singapore is “acting like a child”, and warned Singapore to stay out of their domestic affairs. But I wonder, aren’t Indonesians themselves facing the same problem and even worse given their proximity to the burning forest lands? Their PSI levels must be way above 400, reaching well beyond humane levels.

Every year, around this time when the climate is dry, farmers in Indonesia clear large areas of forested land by lighting it on fire in a slash-and-burn manner. And every year, neighboring countries like Singapore and Malaysia are left choking and gasping for fresh air.

Booming profits, increasing international demand for palm oil and a government willing to turn a blind eye have exacerbated this problem to no end. Is anyone concerned with sustainability, or is it just a matter of third world survival?

Tripa peat forest. A nature reserve in Northern Sumatra being burn to cinders
Indonesian villagers burning palm oil kernels after harvesting at Kandis, Riau Province of Indonesia

The saddest thing is the rich forest biodiversity in these regions is reaching life-threatening conditions for orangutans, tigers, sun bears, bearded pigs and other wild species; all facing extinction as their natural habitat is destroyed.

Orangutan
Sun bear
Bearded pig

In fact, it might sound strange but Singapore is starting to rain birds. The air is so bad that birds are starting to fall out of the sky. Even cats and lizards have reportedly been found choked to death.

There are a few odd things that we might have to reassess in our everyday lives to cope with this haze:

#1: Turn on your headlights when you drive. Don’t wait until night fall. Nowadays, the smog is so thick it is hard to tell what time it is just by looking at the sky. Visibility on the roads is quite limited so once you get into your car, turn on your headlights.

#2: Drive carefully & look out for dead animals. I saw a couple of birds lying dead in the middle of the road on an expressway on my way to work this morning. Drive slowly and watch the road. You never know what you might find lying dead on the road ways.

#3: Don’t hang your washing out to dry. Singaporeans living in HDBs are known for drying clothes by hanging their damp clothes on colorful bamboo poles outside their kitchen windows. During this hazy season, hang out your laundry indoors or get a dryer.

#4: No more doggy walks. Your dog is going to hate me for saying this, but refrain from any walks. Even dog walks. Haze is not good for lungs. Period. Yours and your dog’s. Try spending more time bonding at home with treats and doggy games instead.

#5: Move your potted plants indoor. I know plants need sunshine to live. But they also need fresh air and water. Try moving your potted plants indoor where there may still be some sun exposure without being outside. If it starts to wither, then stick them out for a couple of hours and bring them right back in.

#6: Save the trouble of washing your car. This is probably music to many maids’ ears. Singaporeans are mad about having their car washed everyday. Then again, who won’t be when a car cost half a million dollars? But in this hazy condition why continue washing your car when you know the atmosphere is cloaked by smoke anyway.

#7: Wash your face throughout the day. This is probably easier for guys than it is for girls who wear makeup. So guys, you have no excuse. For the ladies, try to invest in a water spray or an Evian misting spray. It will help to refresh, rehydrate and hopefully, remove any layer of toxin particles buildup on your skin.

Lastly, let’s pray for rain. If this smog continues until September/ October (as the Singapore government has predicted), not only will we see birds falling from the sky, we will start to see a dramatic increase in mild to severe health ailments, and possibility, human death count will rise from the effects of this dangerous air pollution.

Read 10 Ways to Beat the Haze and How the Haze is Hurting Your Body to know more about how to manage this hazy season.

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