Unhealthy air quality readings recorded in parts of Klang Valley

PETALING JAYA, Malaysia - The air turned unhealthy in several locations in the Klang Valley.

As of 3pm yesterday, Cheras recorded air pollutant index (API) levels reading of 127 while Shah Alam recorded a reading of 113, according to the Department of Environment's website.

Putrajaya and Petaling Jaya are two areas that recorded readings at the border of moderate and unhealthy levels.

The Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang recorded an API of 107 at 2pm, but it went down to 64 an hour later.

An API reading of between 0 and 50 is considered good, 51 to 100 (moderate), 101 to 200 (unhealthy), 201 to 300 (very unhealthy), and 301 and above (hazardous).

The API is calculated based on five major air pollutants, namely Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Ground Level Ozone (O3), Carbon Monoxide (CO) and particulate matter with a diameter below 10 micrometers (PM10).

Most of these pollutants come from various sources such as industries, motor vehicles, open burning and power generation.

The concentrations of these five pollutants are measured in 52 automatic air quality stations throughout Malaysia, mainly located in industrial and urban areas.

Fire and Rescue Department director-general Datuk Wan Mohd Nor Ibrahim said there were 5,485 open fires reported in the first 18 days of February alone, a 1,100 per cent increase from the corresponding period last year.

Syabas said on Tuesday that all treatment plants in Selangor were already overloaded or operating at maximum capacity.

In Banting, the peat fires covering 6ha in the town are expected to be put out in the next five days, said Andalas fire station chief Zulkepeli Othman.

He said there were two main hotspots in the district, one being in Banting and the other at Johan Setia.

"The peat fires at Johan Setia are now under control after our teams spent 10 days there," he added.

Asked why the surrounding areas of these two burning sites was hazy at night, he explained that it was due to the wind condition, which was relatively stronger during the evening.

Zulkepeli said he believed the fires were caused by farmers.

Local government, research and study committee chairman Datuk Teng Chang Khim, who visited the peat land yesterday, said the state government had barred new development around peat land areas.