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Size-fractionated Particulate Matter in Indoor and Outdoor Environments during the 2015 Haze in Singapore: Potential Human Health Risk Assessment

Category: Urban Air Quality

Accepted Manuscripts
DOI: 10.4209/aaqr.2017.11.0515
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Ruchi Sharm, Rajasekhar Balasubramanian

  • Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117576, Singapore


The impact of smoke haze on indoor air quality was evaluated.
PM mass increased with a decrease in particle size both indoors and outdoors.
Continued exposure to small PM may pose severe health impacts on a long term.
Potential health risk was found to increase with the increase in haze intensity.
Effective mitigation of indoor exposure to PM is needed during haze episodes.


Landscape fires in Indonesia during the 2015 resulted in large-scale emissions of airborne particulate matter (PM) that degraded ambient air quality of several countries in Southeast Asia (SEA) including Singapore. During this transboundary haze episode, the general public was advised to remain indoors as much as possible in order to mitigate their exposure to high concentrations of PM in the outdoor environment. To understand the quantitative relationship between outdoor and indoor air quality, we measured PM2.5 as well as the size-fractionated PM (coarse, accumulation and quasi-ultrafine (q-UF) particles) simultaneously inside and outside a naturally ventilated apartment and studied the potential health risk associated with exposure to PM of different sizes under the three levels of smoke haze (light, moderate and severe). PM mass concentrations increased with a decrease in particle size, and the q-UF particles (diameter ≤ 250 nm) were observed to be as high as 80 to 85 µg m–3 both indoors and outdoors. Estimation of PM deposition patterns along the human respiratory tract revealed that q-UF particles were mainly deposited in the deeper alveolar region, thereby posing severe health threats. Potential human health risk assessment results based on bioavailable concentrations of toxic elements in PM raised further concerns about health impacts of q-UF particles deposited in the alveolar region. Moreover, uncertainty analysis of exposure parameters used in carcinogenic health risk assessment model indicated much significant exceedance of health risk from the threshold limit for 95th percentile values of health risk (11.5 times higher for PM2.5) during severe-haze episodes. The potential health risk estimated in this study indicates the need to conduct further studies focused upon mitigation of human exposure to achieve health benefits during haze episodes.


Smoke haze Size-fractionated particles Bioavailable toxic elements Human health risk Exposure parameter uncertainty analysis

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