The Haze – What to Believe?

It’s no secret. You can smell it. You can feel it in your lungs. Everyone at ISKL could tell the haze was back––and back hard. Whether you go online to check or just look outside, you can see that this isn’t healthy. There have already been numerous “haze days”, as well as countless hours of sports practices lost within the first few months of the school year. It has gotten to the point where students are checking the API on a daily basis. Although we all know it was bad, the haze may actually have been worse than we were led to believe.

There has been a lot of talk about the potentially outdated measuring unit that Malaysia uses: API. This system has been in use for years, and though it gives an approximate reading of the haze, it is not completely accurate. It only measures particles larger than 10 microns in diameter. Now, you may be asking what does that means, so to put it in perspective, Singapore, who uses PSI, gets a reading of particles larger than 2.5 microns in diameter. In plain English, this means PSI sees things API can not. These smaller particles are believed to be more of a concern during the heavy haze periods and are more dangerous than the larger ones.

When checking the API online, it can easily be seen that Singapore’s readings are vastly greater than Malaysia’s. It may be that Singapore is just getting the worst of the pollution, but these numbers are just too different to ignore. Even if you look at the border between Malaysia and Singapore, Singapore’s readings were nearly doubled that of Malaysia’s, sometimes even greater. If you physically go to Singapore and compare the air quality, you will notice that the pollution is not any worse than Malaysia. This raises the question: what is healthy? What is normal enough for us to be outside? 

In addition to the seemingly outdated system, Malaysia also uses an average of the past 24 hours to give readings of the air quality, instead of giving actual live numbers that are relevant when you check the API. Essentially, this means if there were clear skies yesterday, and haze today, the reading would be lower than the actual air quality at the moment you check. 

There have been several students at ISKL who have been sick from the haze to the point where they had to be hospitalized. Some students have missed school due to the fact that they could not go outside, or couldn’t even breathe. Amir ‘16 missed school for weeks due to his asthma, and made many trips to the hospital. “Whenever I went outside, I was unable to breathe, and it just kept getting worse and worse to the point where I had to stay home.” ISKL attempted to keep students indoors in this primarily outdoor campus, but the haze still affects everyone on campus, both at Ampang and Melawati. Students have even been seen wearing masks in an attempt to shield themselves from the pollution, and while that may help in the short term, it can only go so far.

There has been talk of Malaysia changing its measuring system in 2016, however until this happens the reading not going to represent what is going on outside. This year the haze has been an issue for months.  Finally we have been given a reprieve from the pollution, our skies are blue, our air is breathable. But how long will it last with the fires still burning in Indonesia?