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The Pollutant Standards Index, or PSI, is a type of air quality index, which is a number used to provide the public with an easily understandable indicator of how polluted the air is.
Initially, PSI was based on five air pollutants, but since 1 April 2014, it has included fine particulate matter (PM2.5).
In addition to the PSI derived by averaging data collected for the past 24 hours, Singapore also publishes a 3h-PSI based on PM2.5 concentrations for the past 3 hours. 1-hr PM2.5 concentrations are also published every hour.
Besides Singapore, some other countries also use air quality indices. However, the calculations used to derive their air quality indices may differ. Different countries also use different names for their indices such as Air Quality Health Index, Air Pollution Index and Pollutant Standards Index.
The PSI is based on a scale devised by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to provide a way for broadcasts and newspapers to report air quality on a daily basis. The PSI has been used in a number of countries including the United States and Singapore.
Prior to 1st April 2014, Singapore published the PSI and the PM2.5 Concentration separately. This 3-hour PSI is unique to Singapore and was introduced in 1997 to provide additional air quality information which would better reflect a more current air quality situation.
The PSI considers six air pollutants - sulphur dioxide (SO2), particulate matter (PM10), fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO) and ozone (O3).
The concentrations of these pollutants in the ambient air are measured via a network of air monitoring stations located around Singapore.
A sub-index value is computed for each pollutant based on the pollutant's ambient air concentration. The highest sub-index value is then taken as the PSI value. In other words, the PSI is determined by the pollutant with the most significant concentration.
The PSI is reported as a number on a scale of 0 to 500. The index figures enable the public to determine whether the air pollution levels in a particular location are good, unhealthy, hazardous or worse. The following PSI table is grouped by index values and descriptors, explaining the effects of the levels, according to Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA).
|PSI||Descriptor||General Health Effects|
|51–100||Moderate||Few or none for the general population|
|101–150||Unhealthy for sensitive groups||Members of sensitive groups may experience health effects. The general public is not likely to be affected.|
|151–200||Unhealthy||Everyone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.|
|201-300||Very unhealthy||Health warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected.|
|301+||Hazardous||Health alert: everyone may experience more serious health effects|
Note: This chart reflects the guidelines used in Singapore and may differ from other countries. Health advisories are based on the USEPA’s guidelines. Only the 24-hour PSI value and not the 3-hour PSI value is correlated to the health effects outlined in NEA’s advisories.
Singapore has been occasionally hit by smoke haze from forest fires in nearby Sumatra, Indonesia, brought over by wind. These forest fires have been attributed to the slash-and-burn method favoured by several farmers to clear their land, as opposed to a more expensive and inconvenient mechanical approach using excavators and bulldozers. In June 2013, severe haze hit Singapore, pushing the nation's PSI into Hazardous levels for the first time in its history. Presently, the highest 3-hour PSI reading on record in Singapore is 401 on 21 June 2013 at 12 noon (GMT+8).