SINGAPORE: Commuters waiting at bus stops in Singapore could be breathing in three-and-a-half times more toxic gases and particles than at ambient levels, and with prolonged exposure this may lead to health problems.
These are the findings of a research team led by Dr Erik Velasco, an air pollution expert from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology. The team also comprises students from the National University of Singapore.
After the measurements of their study were validated and the findings published in August, they found that bus stops are hotspots of exposure to tiny particles from vehicle exhaust fumes. These particles permeate the bloodstream and can cause or exacerbate existing pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases such as lung cancer and asthma, the researchers said.
The study started in 2011 and measurements were taken using state-of-the-art portable sensors over a period of two years at five bus stops across VivoCity, Little India, Bugis, One Raffles Quay and the National University of Singapore.
While all five were found to be polluted, the frequency of pollutant spikes were highest at the Bugis bus stop, followed by the one at VivoCity as there were more commuters and traffic in those areas.
According to the Land Transport Authority, about 63 per cent of all journeys in Singapore during peak hours are undertaken on public transport and of the 7.7 million daily trips, 49 per cent are by bus.
To reduce commuters' exposure to the pollutants, the research team suggests installing fans at bus stops to disperse the toxic particles and fumes. It also advises commuters to reduce waiting times at bus stops by checking bus arrival schedules.
In the long term, having electric trams and buses could also help to reduce the level of air pollution, researchers said.