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Singapore Longevity Blue Zone. HDBs, Highways and Health

Updated: Apr 16

HDB health Singapore air pollution

I love my home and as I drive around newly minted Blue Zone Singapore I cannot help but notice how in some areas public housing, HDBs, are stacked up against the roads and highways. What effect does this have on health and longevity?

We know that living in proximity of well-lit and busy highways affects people’s health negatively; brain health, cancer risk and even heart attack. How? The noise, the particulate pollution, even the streetlight itself appears to harm. Under these circumstances brain health, the risk of Alzheimer’s is very much a concern. More-so for a rapidly aging population such as we have. (note: study citations are located at bottom of page)

In a recently published UK paper, using data from the massive Biobank study, the dangers of three key factors on brain health have been highlighted. The paper states:


“We further reveal that the most deleterious modifiable risk factors for this vulnerable brain network are diabetes, nitrogen dioxide – a proxy for traffic-related air pollution – and alcohol intake frequency.


  • Diabetes. Singapore is already engaged in a costly and well-publicised war on diabetes.

  • Traffic-related air pollution, we will speak more on this below.

  • Alcohol intake frequency. We are already the most expensive city to drink in the world and consumption, at least in public, is well regulated. It is never too soon or too late to have a dry month.

When it comes to traffic pollution, Singapore has conducted several of its own studies measuring fine particulate matter (PM2.5), ground-level ozone and nitrogen dioxide. While these have shown increased risk of dementia, there is more at stake. This includes sudden cardiac arrest, stroke, asthma, reduced lung function and other health issues when pollution and temperatures in the concrete jungle rise. (studies are listed at bottom of page)


I appreciate that the nation of Singapore is land scarce, London (the city) is twice the size. We have to live in proximity to roads. However, how could we change the existing city design parameters to create a blueprint for environmental and personal health? My proposal is this, for all future HDB and neighbouring highway developments...

The HDB and Highways Health Plan.

What it entails...

  • Every road, three lanes or more (in one direction) must have a 100 metre strip of forest between highway and neighbouring HDB residential buildings.


Why forest? At it's simplest to block the light, the noise and catch some of the particle pollution. Plus the added benefits of creating a verdant and biodiverse environment, with swaths of city-cooling green corridors crossing the city. At least along the main highways. And both tourists and global city planners will sing our praises for years to come.

And we can extend this policy to any area zoned for housing, government or otherwise.

Singapore green city HDB
In downtown Singapore, roadside greening brings benefits.

Now there might be an argument that cars are soon changing to electric. So perhaps dangerous particulate matter will be reduced. That is a question for the scientists. But I argue that the other reasons are still valid. And if we cannot have forest strips in all areas, then I mandate that planted, roofed, car parks should separate housing from the highways.


The government is already investing in urban planning for health, continuing on Singapore's path as an engineered Blue Zone version 2.0. In the Queenstown health district where a healthy ageing zone is being created and trialed. So where and when can we roll out the HDB and Highways Health Plan?


City Dreaming,



  • See what city planners are already incorporating into city design to keep us cool.

longevity healthspan Singapore

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Related Studies

The UK Biobank study in question... Manuello, J., Min, J., McCarthy, P. et al. The effects of genetic and modifiable risk factors on brain regions vulnerable to ageing and disease. Nat Commun 15, 2576 (2024).

Singapore Studies

Ma YH, Chen HS, Liu C, Feng QS, Feng L, Zhang YR, Hu H, Dong Q, Tan L, Kan HD, Zhang C, Suckling J, Zeng Y, Chen RJ, Yu JT. Association of Long-term Exposure to Ambient Air Pollution With Cognitive Decline and Alzheimer's Disease-Related Amyloidosis. Biol Psychiatry. 2023 May 1;93(9):780-789. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2022.05.017. Epub 2022 May 18. PMID: 35953319.

Aik, Joel & Ang, Lina & Gunther, Samuel & Tang, Charissa & Lee, Jason & Seow, Wei Jie. (2023). Climate change and population health in Singapore: a systematic review. The Lancet Regional Health - Western Pacific. 40. 100947. 10.1016/j.lanwpc.2023.100947.

Ho AFW, Hu Z, Woo TZC, Tan KBK, Lim JH, Woo M, Liu N, Morgan GG, Ong MEH, Aik J. Ambient Air Quality and Emergency Hospital Admissions in Singapore: A Time-Series Analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Oct 16;19(20):13336. doi: 10.3390/ijerph192013336. PMID: 36293917; PMCID: PMC9603816.

Andrew Fu Wah Ho, Jamie S Y Ho, Benjamin Yong-Qiang Tan, Seyed Ehsan Saffari, Jun Wei Yeo, Ching-Hui Sia, Meng Wang, Joel Aik, Huili Zheng, Geoffrey Morgan, Wilson Wai San Tam, Wei Jie Seow, and Marcus Eng Hock Ong (2022). Air quality and the risk of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in Singapore (PAROS): a time series analysis. The Lancet Public Health.

Ho AFW, Hu Z, Woo TZC, Tan KBK, Lim JH, Woo M, Liu N, Morgan GG, Ong MEH, Aik J. Ambient Air Quality and Emergency Hospital Admissions in Singapore: A Time-Series Analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Oct 16;19(20):13336. doi: 10.3390/ijerph192013336. PMID: 36293917; PMCID: PMC9603816.


Rajagopalan S, Brook RD, Salerno PRVO, Bourges-Sevenier B, Landrigan P, Nieuwenhuijsen MJ, Munzel T, Deo SV, Al-Kindi S. Air pollution exposure and cardiometabolic risk. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2024 Mar;12(3):196-208. doi: 10.1016/S2213-8587(23)00361-3. Epub 2024 Feb 1. PMID: 38310921.

Peters R, Ee N, Peters J, Booth A, Mudway I, Anstey KJ. Air Pollution and Dementia: A Systematic Review. J Alzheimers Dis. 2019;70(s1):S145-S163. doi: 10.3233/JAD-180631. PMID: 30775976; PMCID: PMC6700631.

Urbano T, Vinceti M, Wise LA, Filippini T. Light at night and risk of breast cancer: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis. Int J Health Geogr. 2021 Oct 16;20(1):44. doi: 10.1186/s12942-021-00297-7. PMID: 34656111; PMCID: PMC8520294.

Smith MG, Cordoza M, Basner M. Environmental Noise and Effects on Sleep: An Update to the WHO Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Environ Health Perspect. 2022 Jul;130(7):76001. doi: 10.1289/EHP10197. Epub 2022 Jul 11. PMID: 35857401; PMCID: PMC9272916.

Chen R, Carruthers-Jones J, Carver S, Wu J. Constructing urban ecological corridors to reflect local species diversity and conservation objectives. Sci Total Environ. 2024 Jan 10;907:167987. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.167987. Epub 2023 Oct 22. Erratum in: Sci Total Environ. 2024 Mar 20;917:170588. PMID: 37875200.

Li B, Xing H, Cao D, Yang G, Zhang H. Exploring the Effects of Roadside Vegetation on the Urban Thermal Environment Using Street View Images. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Jan 24;19(3):1272. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19031272. PMID: 35162302; PMCID: PMC8834765.

Chunlei Du, Wenxiao Jia, Mo Chen, Liang Yan, Kai Wang, How can urban parks be planned to maximize cooling effect in hot extremes? Linking maximum and accumulative perspectives, Journal of Environmental Management, Volume 317, 2022, 115346, ISSN 0301-4797,

Yuchi W, Sbihi H, Davies H, Tamburic L, Brauer M. Road proximity, air pollution, noise, green space and neurologic disease incidence: a population-based cohort study. Environ Health. 2020 Jan 21;19(1):8. doi: 10.1186/s12940-020-0565-4. PMID: 31964412; PMCID: PMC6974975.


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