The Toxic Haze Choking Southeast Asia



Image: David Ford

Photographer David Ford wearing one of the face masks many citizens of Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia have been forced to wear.

A heavy cloud envelopes the city. Only the dim outline of towers can be seen through the fog. Roads seem to snake away eerily into nothingness. It looks rather like an alien mist from a horror movie, but sadly, this isn’t fiction. People who venture outside take proper precautions, because this is toxic smog – known in the region as “the haze.” Attributed to Indonesian forest fires, the almost yearly phenomenon brings with it a slew of environmental woes.


Image: David Ford

The outline of buildings are barely visible through the smog.

The haze is not only smelly; it’s downright dangerous. On June 21, 2013, Singapore’s Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) was measured at 401. Before June 2013, the worst PSI level recorded in Singapore was 226, measured around the peak of the 1997 Southeast Asian Haze disaster. To put things into perspective, any PSI rating above 200 is considered very unhealthy, while over 300 is hazardous. According to The Telegraph, more than 400 is “potentially life-threatening” to the sick and the elderly.

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