How does Singapore prevent air pollution?

Particulate matter explained and ways that Singapore used to prevent air pollution
  • avatar
    Ronnapat Srivoravilai
  • Published on

Singapore from plane view (image/greenplan.gov.sg)

Singapore, a republic country home to over 5.6 million people became the first southeast Asia country to join Breathlife, a campaign operated by WHO, UN, World Bank, and Climate & Clean Air Coalition. Breathlife is a campaign that aims mission to reduce the effects on both health and climate in communities around the globe.

Singapore’s air quality targets have been used since 2012, it also aligns with World Health Organization targets. Among countries around Singapore, this island's air quality is in healthy condition compared to countries around. Thailand is a good example of this, Thailand has air quality in healthy condition only around 1 week a year. Have you wondered why Singapore can keep air quality in a healthy condition? Let’s find out!

What is PM?

First, let’s get to know about PM 2.5 and PM 10. PM or Particle Matter is not a single matter but it's formed from many chemical species. PM has many differences in terms of size such as PM 10 and PM 2.5. As we know what is PM now let’s see what’s differences amid PM 10 and PM 2.5. They come from different sources and also have different chemical particles. PM 10 is much larger than PM 2.5 (Shown in the infographic below) and that’s why PM 10 usually comes from sources like construction sites, landfills, and incense. PM 2.5 can also be emitted from these sources but most likely it comes from wildfires for the reason that PM 2.5 is formed by the combustion of gasoline, oil, diesel fuel, or wood.

Comparison of sizes of PM 2.5, PM 10, and human hair (image/California Air Resources Board)

When it comes to health risks, we need to take this very serious as it affects everyone regardless economic status, religion, and citizenship. We can separate its effects into two parts. First one is short-term, in the short-term you may feel uncomfortable breathing in a polluted area. Some people may experience nosebleeds, especially children. Long-term effects can be a threat to your life as they can cause death or failure in your body system. As you breathe in, it passes through the respiratory system from your nose all the way to the lungs which help the body filter dust and bad particle. It can cause respiratory cancer and in the worst case scenario, it can result in loss of life.

Air Standards

There’re several standards that are used to determine air quality, the most popular one comes from the US or US AQI as shown below.

US AQI air quality standard, graphic by IQAir (image/IQair)

As you can see, The zone that is very healthy for your body is PM 2.5 between the range of 0 - 12.0 however WHO new recommended guidelines have reset that standard to the range of 0 - 5.0

Unfortunately, a new study shows that almost nowhere on earth is safe from air pollution. Researchers use machine learning to analyze the data that they have collected and ended up with appalling results. Only 0.18 percent of the land on earth has been exposed to a concentration that is below WHO's recommendation. The study also shows that an annual PM 2.5 concentration between 2000 to 2019 was almost 3 times above the WHO’s recommendation at the rate of 32.8 µg/m3m^3.

Clean Air in Singapore

Singapore Yearly means of PM 2.5 level chart (image/data.gov.sg)

The chart above shows an annual mean of PM 2.5 concentration in Singapore since 2001. While countries around Singapore has faced high concentration of PM 2.5 particle, Singapore's PM 2.5 per cubic meter has started to fall since 2015. Due to the fact that Singapore is in the middle of countries that have wildfires, it makes Singapore also suffered from this problem. For example, in 2013 toxic smoke flew from Indonesia wildfires to Singapore, and in that year PM concentration in Singapore hit a shocking rate at the number of 371µg/m3.

As this problem makes a serious impact on citizens’ health, Singapore lawmakers passed Transboundary Haze Pollution Act in 2014 just 1 year after the horrific image of Singapore under attack by toxic dust. Mainly, this law allows the Singapore government in suing companies or individuals for environmental pollution. This law can fine companies or individuals up to one hundred thousand SGD per day and has a maximum fine of 2 million SGD or maybe end up in imprisonment. Depends on the court’s decision.

The most reasonable reason for the major city about Why those cities face air pollution is transportation. Most Singaporeans use public transportation such as MRT or buses. Only a few Singapore people travel around the city by personal car. That’s come from a good public transport system which most major cannot create to be as efficient as Singapore.

Tree is also one of the solutions. Singapore plants thousands of trees around the island. Trees are known that it can improve air quality as it absorbs pollutants in the air, and release oxygen. From the beginning Singapore has planted more than 500,000 trees around the country, covering around 1,700 tree species. By 2030 Singapore has planned to plant more than a million trees.

Trees in Singapore (image/nparks.gov.sg)


  1. Singapore becomes first Southeast Asian BreatheLife city | Climate & Clean Air Coalition (ccacoalition.org)
  2. Inhalable Particulate Matter and Health (PM2.5 and PM10) | California Air Resources Board
  3. Health and Environmental Effects of Particulate Matter (PM) | US EPA
  4. 'Nowhere' on the planet is safe from air pollution, study finds (thenationalnews.com)
  5. https://breathelife2030.org
  6. Air Pollutant - Particulate Matter PM2.5 | Data.gov.sg
  7. Singapore pollution from Indonesian forest fires hits record levels | Singapore | The Guardian
  8. Indonesia moves to stop forest fire pollution as haze grips Singapore | Pollution | The Guardian
  9. Transboundary Haze Pollution Act 2014 - Singapore Statutes Online (agc.gov.sg)
  10. Transboundary Haze Pollution Act 2014 - Wikipedia
  11. Singapore - Protection of the atmosphere (un.org)
  12. STATEMENT: Singapore’s New Haze Pollution Law “A New Way of Doing Business” | World Resources Institute (wri.org)
  13. How Does Singapore Reduce Air Pollution? (earthreminder.com)
  14. Benefits of Trees (nparks.gov.sg)