PETALING JAYA: The unpredictable haze situation has led to the Education Ministry having to issue statements almost daily about school operations.
All schools are opened today including those in Johor that have been closed for the past two days.
The ministry’s statement yesterday came about following queries and false messages about the matter.
It also advised that state education departments and district education offices around the country to continue monitoring the air pollutant index readings (API).
They could take the necessary action if there were changes to the API readings. In view of “disputes” over Malaysia’s API readings, Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Hamim Samuri gave a briefing yesterday to explain that the measurement system here adheres to the standards set by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
“It is not true that the Government is lying.
“If you refer to experts, they will say our method meets international standards,” said Hamim.
He said Malaysia’s API readings differed from Singapore’s in one crucial aspect: Malaysia calculates the index based on PM10 levels, while Singapore measures both PM10 and PM2.5.
PM10 refers to fine particulate matter that are equal to or smaller than 10 micrometres (or microns), while PM2.5 refers to ultrafine particulates that are 2.5 micrometres.
A strand of human hair is typically around 30 to 40 micrometres.
Singapore began incorporating the PM2.5 system in April last year to derive its PSI.
During the haze season, PM10 (or PM2.5) is the most common determinant of the API, which also takes into account four pollutants – sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and carbon monoxide.
“Air pollutant readings based on the PM2.5 system are generally higher than those based on PM10. However, it should not matter much as the classification for good, moderate, unhealthy, very unhealthy and hazardous remain the same, regardless of whether it is PM2.5 or PM10,” said Department of Environment director-general Datuk Halimah Hassan.
Hamim said only 12 air quality monitoring stations in Malaysia could capture data on PM2.5, and the Government was expected to equip all its 52 monitoring stations to be PM2.5-compliant by 2017.
This upgrade will cost RM6.24mil, while the annual operating cost of all stations will be RM840,000.
Yesterday morning, air quality deteriorated with 17 areas recording unhealthy levels compared to 11 places on Tuesday evening.
The highest levels were recorded in Bukit Rambai, Malacca (153) and Port Dickson (141). Both Port Klang and Shah Alam had readings of 102.
The most affected areas in Johor were Pasir Gudang (132), Larkin (123) and Kota Tinggi (107).
In George Town, residents woke up to a hazy day again after several days of clear skies. By 2pm, that familiar smoky smell was everywhere.
Housewife Wendy Teoh, 32, said she had to give her morning market visit a miss.
“I did not want to risk having my asthma act up,” she said.
Resident L. Vishwa, who had wanted to go for his daily evening run, said: “I thought the past few days of clear skies was an indication that there was no more haze.”