22 June 2013

Haze in Singapore! What mask to wear? N95 mask?

Since 14 June 2013, Haze has affected everyone in Singapore and in fact, parts of Malaysia too. The PSI readings are being monitored and have seen to be increasing since then. It had even reached PSI 400 which is considered “Hazardous”. Some even commented that Singapore now looks like Genting!

(Photo by tiger07 for SGAG Singapore)

Look at the differences with increasing PSI!
Photo credit: Tiff in Singapore

And during this period, individuals may encounter discomfort in their eyes, nose and throat. This will also impact those who have respiratory conditions. Everyone is urged to take precautions, 
avoid heavy outdoor activities, wear the N95 mask and seek medical treatment early if need to.

And this is what we are hoping for... ^-^

What is Haze?
Excerpt from Raffles Medical Group, “Haze is the result of accumulation of dust and smoke particles in relatively dry air. It also contains air pollutants like sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide and particulate matter. Due to the small particulate size, the particles that make up haze can go deep into the lungs and in some cases, enter the bloodstream”.

Effects of Haze
Irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. Affects the heart and the lungs, especially those who have existing chronic heart or lung disease, eg. asthma, heart failure Long-term effects resulting from long-term exposure to fine particles include heart attacks and stroke, reduced lung development and development of chronic respiratory disease like asthma.

What mask to wear?
Preferably respirator masks like N95 or equivalent. I'd prefer 3M N95 mask as it fits nicely for me. Some 3M N95 mask models are 8000, 8210, 8110S, 8511, 8211, 9210, 9211, etc.  
N95 masks are designed to seal to the face of the individual and are capable of filtering at least 95% of the very fine particles. Haze particles include mainly fine particles that are 2.5 microns or smaller (PM2.5). 

According to the Ministry of Health website, studies have shown that N95 masks provide good protection as they are able to filter fine particles that are 0.1-0.3 microns and would be very efficient for filtering 0.75 microns and larger.

In conclusion, as long as the mask is able to filter at least 95% of the fine particles that are 2.5 microns or smaller, the mask is good to purchase. 

From Wikipedia, some other types of masks include:

  • N95 / N99 / N100 – filters at least 95%, 99% and 99.97% of airborne particles respectively, not resistant to oil
  • R95 / R99 / R100 - filters at least 95%, 99% and 99.97% of airborne particles respectively, resistant to oil
  • P95 / P99 / P100 - filters at least 95%, 99% and 99.97% of airborne particles respectively, oil proof

Below image shows the size of the particles that could go deep into our lungs when we inhale. 

Read more about the Filtration Mechanisms of Particulate Respirators by Erik Johnson.

How about the usage of surgical mask?
It depends on the individual but it is actually meant to keep saliva and mucus from the person to prevent contaminating the others. It may not fit suitably on the face of the wearer as it will have gaps at the sides of the mask and the particle filtration efficiency is not as good as a N95 mask. Thus, for better protection, it is always good to use the N95 masks.
Most importantly, don’t share the mask!

How frequent do you change the mask?
You should change the mask when it gets soiled or out of shape.

How to wear the N95 mask?
Do drink more water to keep hydrated!

While staying indoors, maybe we could catch the movie "The Haze"?

Some photos posted at Yahoo! News for laugh.
Source of information:
Asiaone YourHealth

Check the Haze updates and PSI readings at NEA website.

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