Sensitive individuals at risk over poor air quality currently experienced in Maldives

A young girl seen wearing a surgical mask. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

Health Protection Agency (HPA), on Friday, has urged sensitive individuals to exercise caution over the poor air quality currently experienced in the Maldives as a result of dust and smoke carried to Maldives area from the Himalayan foothills across the Bay of Bengal due to the shift in seasonal winds.

In an advisory on Thursday, Maldives Metrological Service (Met Office) said that some Maldivian regions, mostly the Northern and Central, are expected to experience a reduction in the quality of air, and poor visibility in the prevailing days; a common occurrence as the two monsoons converge.

They detailed this was a result of the shift in seasonal winds from west to east at the end of the south-west monsoon (wet season) and on the onset of north-east monsoon (dry season) which brings in dust and smoke from the Himalayan foothills across the Bay of Bengal to Maldives.

Although islands surrounding the Maldivian capital, Male’ City is clearly visible usually – the ‘haze’ from the reduction in the quality of air, and poor visibility makes it barely visible.

Male' City experiences haze causing a reduction in air quality and poor visibility. (Sun Photo/Ahmed Saail Ali)

Unlike fog or mist despite similar appearances – haze is a phenomenon where dry particles of dust, salt, aerosols, or photochemical smog that are so small that they cannot be felt or seen individually with the naked eye, but the aggregate reduces horizontal visibility and gives the atmosphere an opalescent appearance are suspended in the atmosphere.

When inquired whether the haze currently experienced in the Maldives poses any health risks – HPA told Sun that increase in the levels of the dry particles known as ‘PM2.5’ will pose greater health risks.

They noted the increased vulnerability of sensitive individuals – naming them as infants, young children, elderly, expectant mothers, people with heart or lung conditions and people with allergies.

HPA noted that the air quality in the Maldives can also be identified through Environment Ministry’s link or through the renowned mobile application ‘IQAIR Visual’. The application can be used to identify the rates of ‘PM2.5’ in the atmosphere.

The colored categories in the application can be used a guide to identify the level of health risks to different groups of people.

Identification of the levels of 'PM2.5' in the air. (Photo/HPA)

These categories are green, yellow, orange, red, a bright purple and a dark purple. Green represents good air quality which poses little or no risk. Yellow represents moderate air quality, for which sensitive individuals have been advised to avoid outdoor activity as they may experience respiratory system. Orange represents air quality unhealthy for sensitive groups which recommend that they are at risk to experience irritation and respiratory problems. Red represents unhealthy – which increases the likelihood of adverse effects and aggravation to the heart and lunge among general public. Bright purple represents very unhealthy – due to which general public will noticeably be affected, whereas sensitive groups must entirely restrict outdoor activities. Dark purple represents hazardous – meaning general public is at high risk of experiencing strong irritations and adverse health activities, therewith, must avoid outdoor activities.

HPA emphasized the importance of both sensitive individuals and the general public exercising caution over the current air quality in the Maldives.

In this regard, they have advised identifying the levels of ‘PM2.5’ in the atmosphere – and taking action according to the respective category.

Male' City experiences haze causing a reduction in air quality and poor visibility. (Sun Photo/Ahmed Saail Ali)

The health agency has also advised wearing masks, closing windows and restricting outdoor activities for children and sensitive persons.

HPA said that the levels of ‘PM2.5’ will differ during different hours.

Maldives usually experiences hazes from December to March. The island nation was affected by haze at the end of last year as well.