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Protect School Children from the Haze

This petition had 4,597 supporters

Parents are concerned about the long-term health risks of children being exposed to the haze at significantly elevated PM2.5 levels.  

Parents request the MOE to take immediate pro-active steps to protect school children from the haze in school classrooms.

Most Primary and Secondary school classrooms have ceiling fans and doors and windows are kept open for ventilation in this tropical country.  If doors and windows are shut without air-conditioning, microorganisms, carbon dioxide, heat and humidity build up.

Children are particularly vulnerable to respiratory conditions and smoke because their respiratory systems are immature, they breathe faster having smaller lung capacities and deeper being more active.  They breathe in more air (and consequently more contaminants) relative to their body size.

According to a paper published by the World Health Organization (WHO), exposure to particulate matter affects lung development in children, including chronically reduced lung growth rate and a deficit in long-term lung function.  

WHO states that there is no evidence of a safe level of exposure for children or a threshold below which no adverse health effects occur. 

The nature of chronic disease, including cancer, involves cumulative damage to cells over time.  Published data on breathing smoke particles from vegetation fires, including by WHO, suggests that chronic health impacts include asthma, respiratory and cardiovascular disease, stroke and lung cancer.  Children accumulating haze pollutants from a young age, even if they do not exhibit acute symptoms, may be more likely to suffer from chronic disease in later life and at an earlier age.

Suggestions for immediate steps to be taken by the MOE, starting at Unhealthy levels of PM2.5 (101 - 200), are : 

  • make arrangements for all essential lessons and/or exams to be conducted in air-conditioned rooms with mechanical air filters (please see risks of electronic air cleaners below)
  • implement e-learning at home for all non-essential lessons.  Schools will remain open to provide air-conditioned and air filtered spaces for those children who continue to attend school for reasons, including childcare or for access to computers and/or the internet
  • in schools where there are insufficient air-conditioned and air filtered rooms, equip some classrooms with mechanical air filters, with appropriate regard to the need for ventilation, e.g. portable air-conditioners
  • give more guidance to schools on effective haze prevention measures.  Teachers to educate children on the correct use of N95 masks and instruct children to put masks on when moving between air-conditioned and air filtered spaces.  Use of N95 masks for prolonged periods is not advisable.

Parents would appreciate MOE taking long-term haze measures at schools to ensure lesson continuity and to avoid parents having to make childcare arrangements at the last minute should school be cancelled. 

Many electronic air cleaners (ionisers, UV and/or ozone generators) produce ozone, including as a byproduct.  Ozone is a lung irritant and causes respiratory tract inflammation, serious breathing difficulty such as asthma and permanent lung damage.

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