Singapore, Malaysia Face Economic Hit From Prolonged Smog

Smog is a type of air pollution that is caused by the burning of large amounts of coal or release of vehicular emissions and industrial fumes – creating a dense, enveloping haze.

Smog contains soot particulates, sulfur dioxide, and other components. These pollutants react in the atmosphere with sunlight and form photochemical smog. The atmospheric pollution levels of cities are increased by inversion that traps pollution close to the ground.

Ground-level ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide are especially harmful for senior citizens, children, and people with heart and lung conditions such as emphysema, bronchitis, and asthma.

Inhaling this dense mixture of pollutants can inflame breathing passages, decrease lung labor capacity, cause shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing. It can cause eye and nose irritation, and dry out the protective membranes of the nose and throat. Smog can also interfere with the body’s ability to fight infection, increasing susceptibility to illness.

Respiratory deaths escalate during periods when ozone levels are high.

Smog is a regular problem throughout Southeast Asia and is often due to land and forest fires. Currently Singapore and Malaysia are experiencing the worst air pollution crisis in the region due to raging slash-and-burn fires in Indonesia.

Slash-and-burn fires are used to clear tracts of land by farmers, plantation workers, and developers. Sixteen years ago, the economic losses linked to a three month long haze from these fires were estimated at more than $9 billion (US) – the accumulated cost of damages in agriculture production, destruction of forest lands, health, transportation, and tourism, according to Reuters.

As of June, a similar haze has settled into the region, setting a new record in Singapore on June 21 with a reading of 401, which is in the hazardous range on the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI). Singapore and Malaysia now face an equally, potentially devastating economic impact as a result.

Restaurants, tourist attractions and some other businesses are already feeling the pain from the toxic haze as it cloaks across Singapore’s upscale shopping districts to Malaysia’s popular beach resorts, reports Yahoo News.

Among the biggest costs that businesses face, aside from the drop is tourism, is illness. Patients reporting respiratory problems and conjunctivitis have jumped considerably.

[Image via Shutterstock]