Let’s not go into panic buying of N95 masks. Many misconceptions that should be cleared – by Mr Koh Poh Koon ( Haze PSI 142 )

  Koh Poh Koon

Many people are rushing to buy N95 masks to protect themselves against the haze. This picture shows a long queue building up at Rivervale Mall.

We need to remain calm and rational. There are many misconceptions that should be cleared:

1. Ordinary surgical masks does not serve any protection so don’t go rushing for them.

2. N95 is useful but only if it is of the right size and worn in a proper manner to be effective.

3. Short term exposure to the haze is not going to lead to bodily harm unless you belong to the vulnerable group with chest diseases, young ones or the elderlies. Asthmatic patients should continue medications during this period and seek medical attention early if feeling unwell.

4. Only those who needs to be outdoors for long periods of time need to wear the N95 masks. If you are sitting in an airconditioned office, there is no real need to wear one. Majority of people therefore do not need to be wearing N95 masks.

5. Short term exposure will not cause cancers.

The best thing to do is to stay indoors with air-conditioning and seek medical attention early.

Stay calm and look out for those around us. Let’s not go into panic buying of N95 masks.

**************************************

Here’s more scientific reasons why all of us shouldn’t be panicking and should as much as possible, maintain some normalcy of life while taking the appropriate mitigation measures. Information extracted from “AIR QUALITY DURING HAZE EPISODES AND ITS IMPACT ON HEALTH” by KATHRYN OSTERMANN

(Atmospheric Sciences Program, The University of British Columbia) and MICHAEL BRAUER (School of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, The University of British Columbia) opined that:

“There is little direct information regarding the human cancer risks associated with biomass air pollution (or haze). A United States Environmental Protection Agency study found that, despite wood smoke being the major contributor to the cancer causing potential of the haze, it was 3 times less potent as a cancer causing agent than extractable organics associated with vehicle emissions (Lewis et al., 1988). The estimated lifetime cancer risk associated with 70 years of exposure to air pollution dominated by wood smoke (80%) was calculated to be approximately 1 in 2,000. This calculation assumes lifetime exposure to PM10 levels of 25-60 µg/m3, of which wood smoke is a major component, for approximately 3 months every year. There is relatively little evidence for a relationship between lung cancer and haze exposure. If any effect does exist it is thought to be small, relative to other risk factors such as diet or exposure to air pollution from coal burning or vehicle exhaust pollution. There is evidence that air conditioners, especially those with efficient filters, will substantially reduce indoor particle levels. ”

Stay calm everyone and lets get through this as a nation. This won’t be the last time we will be experiencing haze situation in this region. Lets arm ourselves with the necessary knowledge and deal with this sensibly and objectively.

Photo: Many people are rushing to buy N95 masks to protect themselves against the haze. This picture shows a long queue building up at Rivervale Mall. We need to remain calm and rational. There are many misconceptions that should be cleared:1. Ordinary surgical masks does not serve any protection so don't go rushing for them.2. N95 is useful but only if it is of the right size and worn in a proper manner to be effective.3. Short term exposure to the haze is not going to lead to bodily harm unless you belong to the vulnerable group with chest diseases, young ones or the elderlies. Asthmatic patients should continue medications during this period and seek medical attention early if feeling unwell.4. Only those who needs to be outdoors for long periods of time need to wear the N95 masks. If you are sitting in an airconditioned office, there is no real need to wear one. Majority of people therefore do not need to be wearing N95 masks.5. Short term exposure will not cause cancers. The best thing to do is to stay indoors with air-conditioning and seek medical attention early. Stay calm and look out for those around us. Let's not go into panic buying of N95 masks.

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One comment on “Let’s not go into panic buying of N95 masks. Many misconceptions that should be cleared – by Mr Koh Poh Koon ( Haze PSI 142 )

  1. Tom says:

    Cancer from woodsmoke will not always be the major concern here anyway. But there are plenty of other illnesses to worry about: Elevated blood pressure, possibly resulting in blood clotting, stroke or heart attack. There are compounds (acrylic aldehyde) which cause respiratory irritation and create an elevated vulnerability to respiratory illness (flu, bronchitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis) by means of suppressed immune response in the lungs.

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