What are the key factors in air pollution in Singapore? Are there any available data sources?

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What are the key factors in air pollution in Singapore? Are there any available data sources?

Hello! It is my pleasure to answer your question about air pollution (key factors) in Singapore and any available data sources on the subject. The specific data sources will be included in the links I’ve connected to this response (labeled with [data] so that you can find them quickly). Additionally, I’ve included some general contact information for several major sources.

We will begin by reviewing some historical and current statistics and information on air quality and air pollution in Singapore, then finish with some specific information that may help with your pitch to the face cream company.

In 2014, Singapore changed the way the air quality is measured in moving to the PSI (Pollutant Standards Index) measurement. PSI includes measures of the following: Sulphur Dioxide, Particulate Matter, Fine Particulate Matter, Nitrogen Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, and Ozone – which are the major players in air pollution. In terms of PSI, the air quality in Singapore did not change much from 2004 to 2014. The following chart details the percentage of days (per year) that the air was rated as “Good & Moderate”.
• 2004: 98%
• 2005: 99%
• 2006: 94%
• 2007: 100%
• 2008: 100%
• 2009: 99%
• 2010: 98%
• 2011: 99%
• 2012: 99%
• 2013: 96%
• 2014: 97%

Additionally, there were days when the air quality (in terms of PSI) was considered “Unhealthy” or “Very Unhealthy & Hazardous”. These are detailed below:
• 2004: Unhealthy – 2%
• 2005: Unhealthy – 1%
• 2006: Unhealthy – 5%; Very Unhealthy & Hazardous – 1%
• 2007: 0%
• 2008: 0%
• 2009: Unhealthy – 1%
• 2010: Unhealthy – 2%
• 2011: Unhealthy – 1%
• 2012: Unhealthy – 1%
• 2013: Unhealthy – 1%; Very Unhealthy & Hazardous – 2%
• 2014: Unhealthy – 3%

The following is a summation of the levels of each of the air pollutants recorded in 2014 (and their comparison data from 2013). Overall, Singapore needs to reduce their levels of Ozone and Particulate Matter to most positively affect their air quality.
• The annual Sulphur Dioxide levels were registered at 12 μg/m3 (quality target is 15); this is a decrease over the 14 μg/m3 registered in 2013.
• The annual Nitrogen Dioxide levels were registered at 24 μg/m3 (quality target is 40); this is a decrease over the 25 μg/m3 registered in 2013.
• The 8-hour Carbon Monoxide levels were registered at 1.8 μg/m3 (quality target is 10); this is a significant decrease from the 5.5 μg/m3 registered in 2013.
• The 8-hour Ozone levels were registered at 135 μg/m3 (quality target is 100); this is a slight decrease from the 139 μg/m3 registered in 2013.
• The annual Particulate Matter levels were registered at 30 μg/m3 (quality target is 20); this is a slight decrease from the 31 μg/m3 measured in 2013.
• The annual Fine Particulate Matter levels were registered at 18 μg/m3 (quality target is 12); this is a slight decrease from the 20 μg/m3 measured in 2013.

The CO2 emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels decreased significantly between 2000 and 2014, which also helped to improve the air quality ratings. This was in small part due to a higher number of hybrid / green vehicles being used in Singapore and the boosting of public transportation. According to the New York Times, in 2013, air pollution levels in Singapore reached record levels due to the widespread burning of forests (mainly on Palm Oil plantations or done by farmers as an inexpensive way to prepare land for new plantings) in Indonesia.

Additionally, according to Urban Emissions, the levels of Fine Particulate Matter in Singapore currently exceed the safety limits set by the World Health Organization. These particulates are small enough to settle in the lungs and can cause severe health problems. The website also states that “while the agency has maintained that Singapore’s air pollution is well within the good range, residents, commuters, and researchers say they would like more publicly available pollution information, and for the authority to keep a closer watch on the [air pollution] culprits.” Haze is the major source of Outdoor Air Pollution that affects the people of Singapore – and respiratory specialists in the country report a 20% increase in the number of patients with asthma and chronic lung illnesses. This trend has been seen throughout the last decade, in which there has not been one year without problematic haze being reported in the country. (1997 was the worst recorded year for haze and air quality in Singapore.) Besides haze, vehicle exhaust fumes and the oil industry are the major contributors of air pollution in Singapore. We will get more into the specifics of each type of major air pollutant – including the health/skin effects each one has on individuals exposed to it (even if only for brief periods per day).

Although the Asthma and Allergy Association does not track patient data in this country, one study showed that, in patients aged 12 to 15, from 1997 to 2001, there was a 2% increase in patients showing asthmatic symptoms. Experts agree that Singapore’s air quality compares favorably against other smog-filled cities in Asia, but is still at too high of toxic levels for the public’s safety. Fortunately, Singapore’s frequent breezes and rain-filled days have helped to clear the air by flushing the pollutants out – which have kept the negative toxic levels more under control than in other Asian countries.

According to a study on Indoor Allergens in Singapore conducted by the US National Library of Medicine / National Institutes of Health, personal homes had significantly higher concentrations and prevalence of allergens compared with other locations. Schools came in second with high concentrations. The highest concentrations of indoor air pollutants in homes came from mattresses (mite allergens), carpets, storerooms, and kitchens. Pet-related allergens (even in homes without pets) were well-distributed with the highest concentrations being found in soft furnishings, carpets, and mattresses. There were no major seasonal variances on Indoor Allergen levels over the course of the year. The major conclusion from the study indicated that store mite allergens were a major component of dust (and indoor air pollution) in Singapore.

The key air pollutants measured by the PSI rating cause myriad issues for the people of Singapore. Short-term exposure (continuous exposure to unhealthy PSI levels over a few days) can cause respiratory issues and exacerbate heart and lung diseases. Additionally, exposure to particulate matter and Sulphur Dioxide can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation even in people who are healthy. In Singapore, the main air pollutant during “haze” is Particulate Matter.

Major air pollutants with effects on the skin include Solar UV Radiation (UVR), Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Particulate Matter (PM), and cigarette smoke. Broken down further, two types of air pollution can cause skin issues: Indoor Pollutants and Outdoor Pollutants. Indoor Pollutants includes things like creosote from stoves/fireplaces and particles from pressed wood products or insulation. These can cause dry skin, skin irritations, and rashes. Outdoor Pollutants, like higher solar radiation caused by depletion of the ozone layer, poor air quality due to high PSI levels, and haze, can lead to premature aging and skin cancer, as well as other major diseases (like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s). Air pollutants and higher numbers of free radicals in the air (caused by air pollution) contribute to dull and sagging skin. Air pollutants, in combination with increased UV radiation exposure (ozone layer depletion), cause our skin to lose elasticity, gain a rougher texture, and wrinkle more quickly (and earlier).

A little more detail on how each of these major pollutants affects the skin:
• UVR: There are two UVR wavelengths: UVA and UVB. Both are linked to premature aging and the development of skin cancers, as well as immunosuppression.
• PAHs: These are the most widespread organic pollutants and are caused by wood burning, auto exhaust fumes, and smoke (like from cigarettes). They cause skin pigmentation (like brown spots), severe skin aging, acneiform eruptions and Chloracne (serious disease causing skin lesions, cysts, and comedones on the face), and are implicated in the development of skin cancer.
• VOCs: These originate from using organic solvents in paints or varnishes, emissions from industrial facilities, environmental smoke (cigarettes, car exhaust, etc). They are linked to inflammatory and allergic reactions like atopic dermatitis and eczema.
• OXIDES: Nitrogen Oxides are mainly emitted from combustion sources which result in the generation of free radicals (which are very bad for our skin, especially as we age). These have been linked to atopic dermatitis and atopic eczema.
• PM: Particulate Matter (and Fine Particulate Matter), although very very small, generate significant aging of the skin, and cause pigment/dark spots, nasolabial folds, and wrinkles.
• OZONE: Ozone formed as a by-product of human activities, amplified by the presence of other air pollutants, cause serious oxidative stress effects on the skin. Additionally, exposure has been linked to urticarial, eczema, and contact dermatitis.

One of the most recommended ways to combat the haze and air pollution in Singapore is wearing a face mask. If the face cream company can show through their campaigns that their products are as effective (or similarly effective) as wearing a face mask (on the skin only, of course, not in relation to lung protection), then they will be more successful in the market.

Here are two major resources / data sources that may be helpful to you:
• Singapore Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources – http://www.mewr.gov.sg
• Singapore Department of Statistics - http://www.singstat.gov.sg/statistics/browse-by-theme/environment

Thank you again for your question, and I hope this information gives you what you need. Please Ask Wonder again for any other questions you may have!