What are the facts surrounding the haze situation?

The past few days have seen Singaporeans pulling together, helping each other, and being resilient amidst the haze. Regrettably, some rumours and errors had also been created. Here are the facts:

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The past few days have seen Singaporeans pulling together, helping each other, and being resilient amidst the haze. Regrettably, some rumours and errors had also been created. Here are the facts:


Rumour #1: PSI index on NEA website was 393 at 10pm on 19 June but later changed to 321.
This is FALSE. 

This is what MEWR says: “With reference to the queries on PSI readings posted on NEA’s website on the evening of 19 June 2013, NEA has checked its website records, which confirm that there was no PSI value posted that was higher than the 3-hour PSI reading of 321. This was the correct PSI value for 10pm on 19 June 2013. Our records also show that there had been no editing or deletion of that PSI reading on the website.”


Rumour #2: Tan Tock Seng Hospital overcharges the sale of N95 masks

This is FALSE.

Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s Facebook Page says:
 “Dear Friends,
We understand the concerns of Singaporeans regarding the poor air quality. To clarify, we have not raised the price of the N95 masks. It has always been at $60 for a box of 20 pieces even before the onset of haze. We have been trying to attend to the overwhelming demand for the masks today and did not have a chance to review it.
We will bring the price down to $50 for a box of 20 pieces of N95, starting tomorrow to make it more affordable for the public. This will be in line with the other hospital pharmacies. We will do the same for surgical masks. 

Rumor #3:  It has been reported on Facebook: “Yes the 9 million masks are coming into Singapore only on Monday. But none will be for the public, the entire batch will be under exclusive control by the G and all distributions of the masks will be under the tightest of scrutiny”.
This is FALSE.

MOH has pushed out more than 4 million masks: 1 million masks to the constituencies, through the SAF and People’s Association, and more than 3 million masks have been pushed out to the retailers. 
A picture says a thousand words:




Rumor #4: The Heart Truths alleged that Minister Vivian Balakrishnan's statement that Singapore is the only country publishing 3-hour rolling PSI, is false.
The statement in The Heart Truths is false.
The US, UK and Hong Kong also update their PSI hourly, using rolling 24-hour averages. We are the only country that also publishes the 3-hour PSI every hour. 

  • Page 8 of the US Environment Protection Agency technical document which shows that the AQI is based on 24-hour average PM10 and PM2.5 concentrations
  • The UK Quality Index is based on a running 24 hour mean PM10


Rumor #5: Is it true that SARS is back in Singapore?
The rumour started as an outdated article from a UK newspaper (originally published in 2003) was circulated.
The Ministry of Health has already clarified that there are currently no cases of SARS or MER-COV in Singapore.

Rumor #6: TR Emeritus claimed that PSI readings on NEA’s website do not take into account PM2.5 but are based solely on PM10
This is FALSE.
MEWR clarifies:
PM10 refers to particulate matter smaller than 10 microns while PM2.5 refers to particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns. Hence PM10 would also capture what is captured in the PM2.5 readings. A rise in PM2.5 levels would reflect a change in PSI. (More info on PSI levels).
Both 24-hr PM2.5 readings and 24-hr PSI readings are published separately in the NEA website hourly. The PM2.5 is a concentration reading which is expressed in micrograms per m3 and not a composite reading like the PSI.
NEA's air quality health advisories take into account both the 24-hour PSI and the 24-hour PM2.5. That's why though PSI levels on some days may be "Moderate", the health advisories are more cautious as they expect 24-hr PM2.5 levels to be higher, posing some risk to the susceptible groups
Rumour #7: Hailstones observed over the western part of Singapore between 1pm and 4.30pm on 25 June 2013 was caused by acid rain or cloud seeding.
NEA clarifies that hailstones are basically lumps of ice that form within intense thunderstorm clouds, and they are different from acid rain, which is rain that contains higher than normal amounts of nitric and sulphuric acids.
In fact, hailstones are quite rare in the tropics because they usually melt before reaching the ground. On average, public sightings of hailstones in Singapore occur every one to two years. (More information on hail can be found on NEA's website.)
The Meteorological Service Singapore confirmed that the hail experienced in Singapore on 25 June 2013 was not caused by the cloud seeding in Indonesia as rain clouds formed by such seeding cannot travel such long distances to reach Singapore.


Rumour #8: The Government is profiteering from the sale of N95 masks. 

MOH clarifies that to date, a total of 4.15 million N95 masks have been released from MOH's stockpile: 3.15 million to retailers and 1 million to the People's Association for distribution to low-income families. The cost of the masks, including transport and storage, is recovered from retailers.

MOH is working with manufacturers and suppliers to ensure the supply of N95 masks in Singapore, including replenishing MOH's stockpile.

More information on the haze can be found on http://www.e101.gov.sg/haze/cutthruehaze.htm.

This article is accurate as of Jun 2013.

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Unless otherwise indicated, the articles here are generally accurate as of their publication dates. Please visit the relevant Goverment agency website for the latest updates.