Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore authorities have refuted the claims of a US-led study. The haze caused premature deaths, it suggests.
Smog from Indonesian forest fires resulted in over 100,000 deaths last year, a recent US study claims.
Between July and October 2015, the billowing haze caused an onslaught of “excess deaths,” the study found. It put the total death count at 100,300.
Around 91,600 people in Indonesia, 6,500 in Malaysia and 2,200 in Singapore died from associated cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, it claimed.
Researchers from Harvard University and Columbia University led the study, that was later published in the Environmental Research Letters journal.
They estimated the volume of smoke by analysing official data on pollution, according to The Straits Times.
From there, they inferred how “the chemical compounds in smoke change as the move through space and time before they reach people,” said Dr Samuel Myers, one of the study’s authors.
“If you know that, you can estimate the concentration of fine particles (PM2.5) that people are breathing,” added Dr Myers, a senior research scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health.
“And if you know that, you can estimate the health impacts,” he said. The study focused on adults who inhaled a fatal amount of these fine particles.
“We note that the modelling study does not take into consideration the mitigating measures that were implemented by countries affected by the haze,” Singapore’s Ministry of Health said. “Hence, it is not reflective of the actual situation,” it added.
The Star newspaper reported that Dr S. Jeyaindran, deputy director-general of Malaysia’s Health Ministry, said that “no deaths last year (were) directly related to the haze.”
Officials in Indonesia, where the official haze death toll is 19, similarly dismissed the study.
“If it’s only a statistical count, I don’t think it is appropriate to conclude such a huge death toll,” said Mr Mohamad Subuh, its Health Ministry’s director-general who oversees prevention for disease control.
But respiratory physician Jim Teo from Mount Alvernia Hospital said the study’s death count was “possible.”
The haze could have worsened the health of patients with chronic heart and lung diseases, he said.
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