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Unhealthy for sensitive groups
|Air pollution level||Air quality index||Main pollutant|
|Unhealthy for sensitive groups|| 145 US AQI||PM2.5|
PM2.5 concentration in Kuching is currently 10.7 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value
|Sunday, Sep 24|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 111 AQI US
|Monday, Sep 25|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 107 AQI US
|Tuesday, Sep 26|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 122 AQI US
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 145 AQI US
|Thursday, Sep 28|
Moderate 72 AQI US
|Friday, Sep 29|
Moderate 65 AQI US
|Saturday, Sep 30|
Moderate 55 AQI US
|Sunday, Oct 1|
Moderate 53 AQI US
|Monday, Oct 2|
Moderate 54 AQI US
|Tuesday, Oct 3|
Moderate 53 AQI US
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Kuching is a city located in the state of Sarawak, Malaysia. It holds the position of being the capital of said state, as well as the most populous city, home to over 570 thousand inhabitants. It is located on the Sarawak river, on the island of Borneo, the third largest island in the world and the largest found in Asia. This sets it apart from the peninsular region of Malaysia, where the capital city Kuala lumpur is found, a fact that plays a part in the differences in air quality between peninsular Malaysia and the Sabah and Sarawak regions. Kuching has a significant presence as a touristic city, as well as a large amount of industrial areas and factories set up within the city limits, which also has an effect on the air pollution levels, usually to its detriment due to the pollutive output of such industrial areas, coupled with the mass movement of tourists and travelers, as well as locals commuting in their day to day lives.
In 2019, Kuching came in with a PM2.5 reading of 17.4 μg/m³ as its yearly average, which placed it in the ‘moderate’ pollution bracket, a ratings group that requires a PM2.5 reading of anywhere between 12.1 to 35.4 μg/m³ to be classified as such. This reading placed Kuching into 1065th place out of all cities ranked worldwide, as well as 11th place out of all cities ranked in Malaysia. This shows that Kuching is subject to less than perfect levels of air quality, and could do much to improve its standing amongst both Malaysian cities and cities across the globe.
Kuching has a variety of different sources that aid in the elevation of its pollution levels, with some of them belonging to the year round, ambient air pollution category, whilst others (in particular one case) belong to the more acute and sudden onset of a massive pollution spike that is seen later in the year. To address the more constant causes of pollution, one of them would be the ever present use of vehicles in Kuching. With a large amount of industry taking place, as well as having a sizeable population, there would be a plethora of vehicles on the road, ranging from smaller ones such as cars and motorbikes, up to significantly larger ones such as trucks and lorries.
These can all produce large amounts of chemical pollution as well as outputting hazardous fine particulate matter. Larger vehicles tend to rely on diesel fuels, and due to their large size and massive weight, subsequently put out far more pollution than smaller vehicles do. Other causes include the aforementioned industrial and manufacturing side of the city, with many commercial banks and insurance companies having set up headquarters within Kuching, which along with the large industrial areas, will increase the amount of energy consumption that the city goes through, and thus increase the pollutive output that arises from power plants.
Many of these power plants rely heavily on coal, which besides being an unsustainable fuel source, also releases large amounts of dangerous pollutants as a byproduct of its combustion. Lastly, the fires that occur in Indonesia, in particular the Sumatran region, are responsible for the massive spikes in PM2.5 towards the years end, due to strong winds blowing massive clouds of smoke and haze over to Kuching, and many other cities in the region.
Whilst there are no groups of people that are entirely immune to the damaging health effects of pollution exposure, particularly during periods that see higher levels of smoke, haze and particulate matter in the air, there are some groups that are even more at risk due to a number of reasons. These groups of people include among them the elderly, young children, pregnant mothers, those who are sick or have preexisting health conditions, particularly of the respiratory variety, or those with compromised immune systems.
Pregnant mothers may be subject to some disastrous side effects when over exposed to pollution during this vital period of time, which can result in cases of miscarriage, babies born with low birth weight as well as prematurely, with both physical and mental defects. These factors can all contribute to raising the infant mortality rate.
Observing the data taken over the course of 2019, Kuching experienced its most elevated levels of pollution from the months of July through to September (with some other months earlier in the year also coming in with some higher readings, but generally returning to more appreciable levels rather quickly). June came in with a respectable reading of 10 μg/m³, which put it still within the World Health Organizations (WHO's) target goal for the best quality of air at 10 μg/m³ or less. This then shot up considerably in July with a reading of 13.2 μg/m³, and then up further to 19.9 μg/m³ in August, before hitting an absolute peak of the year with a massive reading of 79.9 μg/m³ in September.
September is typically when nearly all cities across Malaysia are hit worst by high levels of haze and pollution, due to the forest fires taking place in Indonesia. Though peninsular Malaysia is closer to Sumatra, Kuching is still not exempt from the terrible clouds of smoke that make their way over. This reading of 79.9 μg/m³ placed Kuching in the ‘unhealthy’ bracket for this month, a very dangerous reading which can indicate a number of serious health issues for those who are exposed to polluted air during this time.
Some health issues that may arise would be ones such as increased bouts of dry cough, irritation to the skin and mucous membranes, as well as higher chances of throat or chest infections occurring. Cancer rates can go up significantly, with fine particulate matter being highly carcinogenic when inhaled (particularly when material like black carbon or fine silica dust is involved). Ischemic heart disease can occur, along with other cardiac conditions such as heart attacks, arrythmias and angina. Regarding respiratory issues, more prominent ones such as pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysema and aggravated forms of asthma would afflict people, particularly during the aforementioned periods of high pollution, and furthermore if an individual belongs to a vulnerable demographic.