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The PM2.5 we should know about

Translated by KHEI YOK MAN
Sin Chew Daily

There came a heavy rain after a chorus of thunders the day before yesterday. Even hail stones were found showering in our neighboring Singapore in a torrential storm. The long awaited rain finally reached these two desperate countries upon the frustrating torment. Sharing of all sorts about the rain in glee was posted on Facebook to inform almost immediately.

My colleague commented that he had never before seen such joys brought forward to the public by a thunderous storm. Suffice to say, how very much people were raring for rain, blue sky as well as the white clouds while fighting the torturing haze.

The parched air seems to improve to a certain degree after the storm though the air pollutant index (API) in southern Johor doesn’t change much: a mere 1 to 6-point decrease. Meteorological experts in Singapore also pointed out that rain can wash away the PM10 particles in the air partially, yet it doesn’t help much to PM 2.5.

What on earth is PM? PM is the initials for Particulate Matter. PM10 means the size of the floating particles is below a radius of 10 micrometres while PM2.5 is below 2.5 micrometres. The radius of an ordinary pollen is 30 millimetres. By now I am sure you can imagine how tiny 2.5 micrometres will be!

PM2.5 particle is marked as the ‘culprit of haze’, equally known as the ‘particles inhalable to lungs’. Experts warned that the harm posed by PM2.5 particles far exceeds that of PM10 as it carries a large amount of toxic and harmful materials. They stay in the air longer and convey further and impact health and air quality dauntingly.

Accordingly, after PM10 particle has gained access to our respiratory tract, it is dischargeable in the form of phlegm, or obstructed by nasal hairs in the nostrils while PM2.5 particle is inhalable directly into one’s bronchi, inducing obstruction of respiratory tracts and inflammation. The worse being, 75% of PM2.5 particles will stay in the alveoli, and gain access into one’s blood vessels through diffusion, causing lung cancer, asthma and cardiovascular diseases, or stroke.

Apart from posting the hourly API, the Singapore National Environment Agency concurrently releases the PM2.5 Index. Johoreans are accessible to Singaporean TV channels, naturally they gain this added information. Unfortunately the national PM2.5 Index is informed in Singapore but not Malaysia granted their advanced facilities. As such, only PM10 Index for below 10 micrometres radius particles are detectable but not PM2.5 in Malaysia.

The harm caused by PM2.5 particles to human beings is proved and confirmed by the medical profession and thus taken seriously. The 24-hour PM2.5 concentration cannot exceed 25 micrograms per cubic as informed by the World Health Organisation. Since the said device for PM2.5 detection is not installed in Malaysia, we were not informed of the PM2.5 Index though our air was haze blanketed heavily for the past seven days.

To curb the forest fire and haze posers originated from our neighbouring Indonesia at its best is not likely to be attainable within a short stint. Facing such recurring, unavoidable catastrophe and knowing the potential harm posed by PM2.5 particles, deterrent measures including the installation of PM2.5 particle detector ought to be in place imminently.


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