KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 7 — Malaysia is experiencing yet another haze crisis believed to be due to the forest fires in some parts of Indonesia.

However, Jakarta has denied detecting any smoke drifting over its borders into its neighbour.

Air quality has hit unhealthy levels in several parts of Malaysia in the past few days.

And with haze comes serious risks to public health and impending implications on the healthcare system should the situation prolong.


According to consultant public health physician Dr Feisul Idzwan Mustapha, haze contains tiny particles with toxic substances that can enter the lungs and be absorbed into the bloodstream.

“Hazy conditions can increase asthma attacks, increase the risk of respiratory infections, decrease lung function, increase the incidence of shortness of breath, coughing and eye irritation.”

He said individuals with pre-existing pulmonary conditions or diseases will be at higher health risks due to haze.


Echoing similar sentiment, occupational health doctor Dr Nurul Rahman Mohamad Zahari said prolonged exposure to unhealthy or dangerous air pollutant index (API) readings can lead to several health risks, including respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses and eye irritation.

“Haze can exacerbate or trigger respiratory problems such as asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia.

“It can also contribute to heart issues, particularly in individuals with existing heart conditions,”

Dr Nurul Rahman said haze can cause eye irritation, redness and discomfort, while individuals with allergies, lung diseases or compromised immune systems may experience worsened symptoms.

Precautionary measures

Dr Feisul, who is also Perak State Health Department deputy director (Public Health), said the public should make an effort to be aware of changes in air quality levels in their respective areas.

"This can be done by referring to the official website of the Environment Department over here."

If you live in an area that records unhealthy air quality, you should take preventive measures such as avoiding outdoor physical activities.

“Stay indoors as much as you can, and if you have to go outside, limit the time and wear a facemask.

“Close the windows to reduce the haze entering the house or building, and improve internal ventilation.”

Dr Nurul Rahman said it is also important for people to stay hydrated as haze can often dry out the respiratory passage.

“Wear protective eyewear to shield your eyes from irritation caused by airborne particles.

“People with pre-existing respiratory conditions should follow their healthcare provider's advice and take prescribed medications as directed.”

When to use a facemask?

According to Dr Nurul Rahman, the public should consider wearing masks when the API reaches unhealthy levels, especially if they need to be outdoors.

“N95 respirator masks or equivalent masks with a high filtration efficiency are suitable for protecting against haze,” said Dr Nurul Rahman who is also Pantai Hospital Ampang medical officer.

Dr Feisul said a respirator is a protective device worn covering the nose and mouth and is used to reduce the wearer’s risk of inhaling hazardous airborne particles.

“Respirators work better than surgical masks as they seal better and restrict more polluted air from entering the nose and mouth.

“They also come with the right filter to remove fine particles found in the haze.”

Children and senior citizens must be more cautious

Dr Nurul Rahman said haze can have a more significant impact on vulnerable populations such as children and senior citizens.

“Children are more susceptible to the adverse effects of haze due to their developing respiratory systems.

“Prolonged exposure to haze can lead to respiratory symptoms, worsened asthma and reduced lung growth in children.”

He said the risk can also be grave for older adults with pre-existing health conditions.

“Haze can exacerbate respiratory and cardiovascular problems in seniors, leading to hospitalisations and increased mortality rates.

“It's crucial for caregivers of children and senior citizens to take extra precautions during the haze season, including limiting outdoor activities and ensuring proper respiratory protection.”

Four areas in Johor recorded unhealthy API readings as of 1pm today.

Based on the data of the online Air Pollutant Index Management System (APIMS), the highest API was logged in Larkin at 158 followed by Pasir Gudang with 153, Batu Pahat at 151 and Kota Tinggi at 102.