Posted by Cassandra T. in Updates on June 21, 2013
Did you know that the PSI (Pollutants Standard Index) is measured on a scale of zero to 400? As of 21st June 2013, 11am, Singapore has hit the maximum of PSI 400!
I hope you are sufficiently scared by now, because I definitely am! The haze, brought about by prevailing winds from the fires in Indonesia’s Sumatra Island, has affected Singapore since 13 June 2013 and is expected to continue over the next few days.
The haze has had its hilarious moments, with various memes making fun of the hazy situation.
However, the situation is definitely no laughing matter now. With the PSI hitting the all-time high of 400, it is time to educate yourself and understand what exactly the danger is about the haze and how to protect yourself. As the wise Sun Tze said, “Know thyself and know thy enemy, and you will win a hundred battles.” Here comes HAZE 101 to the rescue!
Q1) Air pollution readings on the NEA website state “PSI and PM2.5 Readings”. What exactly is PM2.5 and what is the difference between PSI and PM2.5?
PSI stands for Pollutants Standard Index, which is based on concentrations of larger particulate matter known as PM10. The PSI does not factor in fine particles known as PM2.5. PM2.5 particles, about one-thirtieth the width of a human hair, are more dangerous as they can enter the lungs or bloodstream more easily than larger dust particles.
Q2) Exactly how harmful is this PM2.5 to my body?
Breathing in too much PM10 increases the risk of heart attacks and heart failure, lung cancer and strokes. It can also make people more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections.Most healthy people may experience mild eye irritation, sore throat or cough from the pollutants.
For PM2.5, here is an excellent infographic by Greenpeace:
Q3) I cannot get hold of a N95 mask. Will a face/surgical mask help filter the particulate matter?
Unfortunately, face/surgical masks do nothing to help prevent the particulates from entering your lungs. In a nutshell, face/surgical masks are a barrier to prevent you, the wearer from polluting the environment due to your illnesses, such as cough or colds. They do NOT prevent you from inhaling the particulate matter in the air that is dangerous to your body. The “N95″ literally means that 95% of fine particles are blocked by this mask. Thus, it is essential that you try to get your hands on one as soon as possible. In the meantime, you can use a wet handkerchief or wet towel to cover your nose.
Check out the explanation of mask types here:
Q4) I have an N95 mask. How often do I need to change it?
Wearing N95 masks will provide effective protection against PM2.5 but ensure you are wearing the mask correctly with a tight seal around the face. N95 masks can be purchased in pharmacies and can be used multiple times. Only when it’s hard to breathe while wearing, should you dispose of it and buy a new one.
Q5) Other than masks, what else can I do to protect myself against the haze?
Air conditioners: When using air conditioners, set the button on inner circulation.
Reduce activity: Try to stay indoors during the most polluted hours of a day, which is normally from dawn till dusk. Do less physical activities outdoors.
For those who are experiencing discomfort, here’s some tips on how to alleviate the symptoms:
Employers, even though there has been no stop-work order from the Government, please be proactive and allow employees to work from home. Or even procure N95 masks for your employees. We can sit on our asses and complain about the Government not being proactive enough, or we can take a step forward and start being proactive! You are in a position to lead!
Here is a thought-provoking article by a Singaporean couple on what our leaders in government can do about the haze. While I agree fully with the measures proposed, I also feel that we Singaporeans can do our part in being proactive, while pushing the Government to do more.
I hope this post helps you understand the haze better and enables you to take more useful precautions. Stay indoors and stay safe everyone!