Haze: Air quality in Johor the worst in years, haze-related health complaints increase

The Star, 20 Jun 2013

PETALING JAYA: Air quality deteriorated rapidly overnight with Muar in Johor hitting hazardous levels for the first time with an Air Pollutant Index (API) reading of above 380, according to the Department of Environment (DOE).

This is the first time in years that air quality has dipped to hazardous level with conditions worsening in as dry weather persists and fires rage in Sumatra.

At 7am, the API was at 337 but it deteriorated to 383 just several hours later at 11am Thursday. A good API reading is from 0-50, moderate (51-100), unhealthy (101-200), very unhealthy (201-299) and hazardous (300 and above).

The air quality also worsened in Kota Tinggi which now records very unhealthy levels with an API of 232 as of 11am while Pasir Gudang had an API reading of 199.

As of 5pm Wednesday, seven areas recorded unhealthy, 39 moderate and five good air quality readings, but there were no very unhealthy or hazardous readings.

Aqua satellite images show 376 hotspots over Sumatra while the NOAA satellite shows 173 hotspots, with cloud cover preventing precise readings.

According to the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre, scattered hotspots with localised smoke plumes were detected mainly in central Sumatra.

“Moderate to dense smoke haze was detected over Riau province and spreading across the Malacca Straits.

“Scattered hotspot activities were also detected over Borneo due to prevailing dry weather conditions.”

There are about 150 hotspots in Borneo, according to satellite images.

Meanwhile in BATU PAHAT, clinics, hospitals, pharmacies and even Chinese medicine shops are getting more patients as the haze situation in the district worsens.

Private practitioner Dr King Ban Siang said more patients at his clinic were complaining of respiratory tract issues, sore throats and coughing.

He said worst-affected patients were children and those with asthmatic problems.

“Those with respiratory tract diseases increased about 20% to 30%.

“Some complained that the haze this time is worst as the air is not only cloudy, but also carries ashes and fine particles,” he said, and also advised the public to cover their food.

Pantai Hospital consultant physician Dr Ho Lee Ming said the hospital treated 39 outpatients cases from Jun 16 to 19 and eight inpatient cases at present due to upper respiratory tract infection.

Dr Ho also advised members of public to cut down on outdoor activities, take plenty of fluids, wear masks and to seek advice from doctors immediately if they had difficulty breathing.

Chinese medicine shop assistant Pua Zhi Hao said more people were buying herbal teas to sooth sore throats and relieve coughs.

“Almost all of our customers the past few days are looking for herbs for respiratory system complaints,” he said.

A pharmacist who declined to be named said their stock of masks had been depleted.

“We are out of stock at the moment. Sales of Vitamin C and fever reduction (medication) will also go up every time the haze comes,” she added.