Haze (Smog) Causes Not Just Discomfort, It Kills

by Chee-khoon Chan
23rd June 2013

In 2002, Narayan Sastry, currently a professor of demography at the University of Michigan published a paper entitled “Forest Fires, Air Pollution, and Mortality in Southeast Asia” in the February 2002 issue of the journal Demography.

The smog of 1997 coincided with an El Niño year which intensified the seasonal mid-year drought. The land clearing and forest fires in that year burned an estimated 2-3% of Indonesian land area, mostly in Sumatra and Kalimantan but also affecting sizeable tracts in Irian Jaya, Sulawesi, Java, Sumbawa, Komodo, Flores, Sumba, Timor, Wetar as well as areas in Sarawak and Brunei.

Sastry obtained daily mortality statistics from the Department of Statistics in Malaysia and correlated these with the daily Air Pollution Index (API) readings from the Malaysian Meteorological Department, in order to analyze the acute mortality in Kuching and Kuala Lumpur following upon days of high air pollution (defined as days when PM10 > 210 ug/m3). (The API is largely based on PM10, the concentration of suspended particulates of size 10 microns and below).

For a fifteen-day period in September 1997, the API in Kuching reached or exceeded 850. The highest API reading recorded was 930, and visibility was down to about 10 metres. In Peninsular Malaysia, API readings hovered in the 200-300 range during the same period. One shudders to imagine what the situation would have been like in the affected areas closer to the hot spots.

The salient findings were reported thus in Demography:

“a high air pollution day associated with the smoke haze increased the total all-cause mortality by roughly 20%. Higher mortality was apparent in two locations – Kuala Lumpur and Kuching (Sarawak ) – and affected mostly the elderly. In Kuala Lumpur, non-traumatic mortality among the population aged 65-74 increased about 70% following a day of high levels of air pollution. This effect was persistent; it was not simply a moving forward of deaths by a couple of days (a “harvesting” effect). This finding suggests that there were real and serious health effects of the smoke haze… one implication of these results on the short-term effects of the smoke haze in Malaysia is that the effects in Indonesia itself are likely to have been tremendous. The presence of significant mortality effects in Malaysian cities that are several hundred miles away from the main fires strongly supports this notion. Unfortunately, there are no appropriate health or mortality data for Indonesia to study this issue directly.”

In plain language, the acute (immediate) death rate among elderly people (excluding deaths due to accidents or violence) increased by 70% when API readings exceeded 210.

We are rightly concerned about the long-term health effects of recurrent exposures to these seasonal smogs. But we already have strongly suggestive evidence that the immediate effects of smogs such as we experience now go beyond temporary distress and discomfort – they can kill.

  1. #1 by Winston on Monday, 24 June 2013 - 8:06 am

    The whole damned reason why open burning is allowed is that the Indonesian government wants to enable its crony corporations to get rid of the cleared jungles in the most economical way.
    This conscienceless and evil government, together with its equally conscienceless and evil government in Malaysia have been wreaking havoc with the health and economy of this region for more than a decade.
    And every year when the haze arrives, they put on a rigmarole of seemingly doing something about it!!!
    They are the INFERNAL DUO!!!
    It now behoves the small but very well administered and capable government of Singapore to do what is necessary to dig us out of this hole!
    Hopefully, the people of Malaysia will also chip in to work with them to take whatever action is necessary.

  2. #2 by Winston on Monday, 24 June 2013 - 8:40 am

    Unfortunately, there are no appropriate health or mortality data for Indonesia to study this issue directly.” – End of quote

    The deaths due to haze in Indonesia would have been much greater than in Malaysia or Singapore since they are right on ground zero.
    But do the Indonesia government care?
    In fact, they could even use it as a form of population control!!!
    Other than deaths caused by the haze, there are also myriad other health issues involved.
    Like those with asthma.
    Or even those with dry eyes.
    Since these problems are aggravated by smog which can increase inflammation to those affected.
    The resultant use of steroid in products to reduce inflammation can bring about ancillary problems like glaucoma – one of the causes of blindness.
    So, just like the fraudulent GE13, the haze must be brought to a halt!

  3. #3 by yhsiew on Monday, 24 June 2013 - 9:00 am

    It was reported that too much suspended particles in the inhaled air will damage the breathing tubes and bacteria will penetrate the body through the damaged breathing tubes.

  4. #4 by Bunch of Suckers on Monday, 24 June 2013 - 10:09 am

    Only general public suffer; the suckers are in air-conditioner premises enjoy!!! Do the suckers care???? Should they care???

  5. #5 by nosirtq on Monday, 24 June 2013 - 10:43 am

    Dear MP’s, It already late for talk and meeting, quite, simply someone in the government (paid by tax payers money) should just get on the phone, quickly agree on immediate key steps and acted, as all public health is at risks. Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia should work swiftly to reduce the impact, finger pointing will not help…….public are tired of listening to excuses.

  6. #6 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Monday, 24 June 2013 - 10:53 am

    Umno is not concerned. Umno is immune because umno is the GOD of all gods and the grand master of the universe.

    So die all of you. Perish in the haze!

    Ha ha ha ha ha….. (laughed umno the God of gods and grand master of the universe)

  7. #7 by bryanbb on Monday, 24 June 2013 - 10:54 am

  8. #8 by worldpress on Monday, 24 June 2013 - 12:44 pm

    Wake up those stupid voters

    They don’t care much about Malaysian Health

    They don’t love you to you get it

  9. #9 by negarawan on Monday, 24 June 2013 - 1:45 pm

    There is already more than enough data from more than two decades to support the fact that Indonesian palm oil plantations are mostly responsible for the haze. It is high time to start an international campaign to boycott and embargo all palm oil products originating from Indonesia.

  10. #10 by sheriff singh on Monday, 24 June 2013 - 2:16 pm

    When there is tsunami and earthquake in Sumatra, we go immediately over there to help them.

    Now Sumatra is smoking and the smoke comes over here, why don’t they come over and help us? Or do something over there to stop the fires and smoke? Why do they blame us when the fires are over there? Don’t they know how to reciprocate or just be good neighbours?

  11. #11 by sheriff singh on Monday, 24 June 2013 - 2:21 pm

    Why don’t they just smoke kretek?

  12. #12 by Winston on Monday, 24 June 2013 - 5:30 pm

    Those of sound mind will shake their heads looking at the minimal action taken by the government. This is especially so when we see Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare Agung Laksono getting worked up and angry with Singapore’s frustration at seeing the haze, and saying “the neighbouring country’s action is childish”. – Malaysian Insider

    Just look at the type of ministers the Indonesian government is having.
    And he’s supposed to be the “People’s Welfare Minister”!
    Well, it looks like he is the People’s Demise Minister!
    This then is the type of ministers typical of both Indonesia and Malaysia!!
    In a nutshell, they are NUTS!!
    Absolutely crazy!!!!!!

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