The air quality in Singapore is generally good but this doesn’t mean that we can let our guard down. We already know about the haze, but don’t ignore everyday pollution from other sources!
Air Pollution 101: Know the basics
What types of pollutants are there?
Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Common pollutants in our air include sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter 10 as well as particulate matter 2.5. Exposure to these chemicals can be hazardous to our health.
Where do they come from?
The common pollutants present in the air in Singapore comes mainly from industrial sources such as factories and oil refineries as well as power stations and motor vehicles. During the dry season, trans boundary pollution from our neighbouring countries due to forest fires and land clearing activity can pose problems.
Why are they harmful?
Animals exposed to high concentrations of sulphur dioxide have been found to suffer from inflammation of the airways and lung damage. Nitrogen dioxide can cause inflammation in the lungs and lower the resistance to respiratory infections such as influenza. The effects of short-term exposure are still unclear, but continued or frequent exposure to concentrations that are typically much higher than those normally found in the ambient air may cause increased incidence of acute respiratory illness in children.
Exposure to these fine particles can cause short term health effects such as eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and shortness of breath. Exposure to these fine particles can also affect lung function and worsen medical conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart disease.
Increases in daily PM 2.5 exposure have been linked with increased respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions, emergency department visits and deaths. Studies suggest that long term exposure to fine particulate matter may be associated with increased rates of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, reduced lung function and increased mortality from lung cancer and heart disease. People with breathing and heart problems, children and the elderly may be more sensitive to PM 2.5 exposure.
Symptoms of airway allergies
• A runny or blocked nose
• Post nasal drip
• Cough, wheezing and breathlessness
Indoor air pollution
Most people think that air pollution is confined to the air outdoors, but did you know that the environment within your homes and offices can also contain substances that make the air unhealthy? Some sources of indoor pollution include mould and pollen, tobacco smoke, household products such as pesticides, machines in the office or even materials used in the building (asbestos, formaldehyde and lead).
Look out for allergens!
An allergen is a substance that can cause an allergic reaction in your body because your immune system identifies it as dangerous. Your immune system reacts by making antibodies to defend against the allergen and this reaction leads to allergy symptoms. Common allergens in our air includepollen, mould, spores, dust mite excrement and animal dander.
When you inhale allergens or particles in the air that you are allergic to, you may experience a type of coughing known as allergic cough. When the allergen lands on the inside of the nose or airway, you may also experience an inflammatory reaction that results in increased mucous production and swelling of the airway linings.
Other symptoms may also involve the nose (allergic rhinitis) and airways or bronchial tubes (asthma). These two conditions commonly exist together and are extremely common in our society: Allergic rhinitis occurs in roughly 10%- 15% of the population while asthma affects about 5% of the population.
Stop the Sneeze!
• A messy home or office is also the perfect place for dust mites, mould and other bugs to thrive in. So always keep your living and working area clutter and dust-free.
• Banish mites and mould by washing your bedding weekly.
• If you are sensitive to pollen, keep your windows shut and use an air purifier with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to trap tiny particles.
• To ease the discomfort of allergic symptoms, try a saline sinus rinse to flush out allergens that stick to the lining of your nose or ask your doctor for a antihistamine prescription.