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Smoke-haze pollution: a review of the 1997 episode in Southeast Asia


In the second half of 1997, large areas in Southeast Asia were severely affected by a smoke-haze pollution episode caused by the emissions of an estimated 45,600 km2 of vegetation that burnt on the Indonesian islands Kalimantan and Sumatra. To document the impacts of these fires on air quality, data for total suspended particulate matter (TSP) and for particulate matter below or equal to 10 microns in diameter (PM10) from selected sites in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are analysed in this paper. These data are supplemented by meteorological data, satellite images and a summary of related research. TSP was above 2,000 µg m–3 for several days in Indonesian locations close to the most extensive fire activity. In Malaysia and Singapore, ambient particle concentrations increased to several times their average September levels. Characteristically for emissions from vegetation burning, the additional atmospheric particle loading during the smoke-haze episode was predominantly due to an increase of the fraction below or equal to 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5). Due to the dominance of respirable particles (PM2.5) in the smoke-haze, air quality reporting based on TSP or PM10 may be inadequate to assess the health risk. Upgrading of PM2.5 monitoring facilities is therefore needed. Reducing the probability of similar smoke-haze events in future would require appropriate fire use and smoke management strategies.

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Heil, .A., Goldammer, .J. Smoke-haze pollution: a review of the 1997 episode in Southeast Asia. Reg Environ Change 2, 24–37 (2001).

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  • Southeast Asia Vegetation fire 1997 Air pollution Particulate matter Impacts