Singapore said on Saturday that it would pursue local firms found to be involved in starting forest fires in Indonesia, as Greenpeace said the blazes were on palm oil plantations owned by Indonesian, Malaysian and Singaporean companies.
Smog has engulfed the city-state with fluctuating levels rising to a record high Friday, although they had dropped to “moderate” by Saturday afternoon, giving beleaguered residents relief that was predicted to be temporary.
Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam told a press conference Saturday that Singapore would investigate possible legal action against domestic companies responsible for the fires.
The World Health Organization says air pollution is a significant risk factor for a number of health conditions including respiratory infection, heart disease, and lung cancer – but there are certain groups who are particularly at risk.
Elderly people and those with respiratory illnesses, such as asthma, are vulnerable when smog hits because their lungs are less able to deal with the pollution.
They are more likely to be admitted to hospital, and for those who are already sick, the smog is an additional stress factor.
People with asthma may find their condition worsens and they need to take more medication.
Children are thought to be susceptible to the dangers of air pollution because they spend more time outdoors and breathe in more air per unit of body weight.
Singapore’s prime minister said that the smoky haze could remain in place for weeks and possibly until September or October, when the dry season ends in Sumatra.
Prolonged exposure to the smog will mean prolonged health risks for elderly and vulnerable people in an urban area where normal pollution levels are quite high.
In the meantime, the advice is to stay indoors when possible, where pollution levels are lower, and limit unnecessary physical activity to reduce breathing in dirty air.
The face masks which are in high demand in Singapore can protect against the worst of the smog.