For the first time, as the haze breached the 300 PSI, the Ministry of Education announced that all primary and secondary schools, MOE kindergartens and special schools in Singapore will be closed on 25 September 2015.
Feeling overwhelmed or still hazy about the haze? Here’s a guide on how you can stay safe and unfazed through this haze, how to safeguard your family’s health, how to explain it to the kids and keep them occupied and happy indoors.
1. The Haze Basics
Due to the common practice of open burning to clear land for agricultural use and the abundance of dry peatland in Sumatra and Kalimantan, the haze has affected Singapore over several years. Especially during the Southwest Monsoon Season, typically from May to October, the smoke haze from these forest fires have been carried by the wind over to Singapore’s sunny skies.
The PSI, which stands for Pollutant Standards Index, reflects a total of six pollutants:
- Sulphur dioxide: produces a foul smell when fuels are burnt
- Particulate matter (PM10): major component of the haze, produced by burning wood and vegetation
- Fine particulate matter (PM2.5): these are worrying as they can cause different types of respiratory illnesses
- Nitrogen dioxide: toxic gas from car exhaust fumes
- Carbon monoxide: odourless gas caused by incomplete burning or from car exhaust fumes, fatal in large amounts
- Ozone: greenhouse gas
Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) publishes the 1-hr PM2.5, 3-hr PM2.5 and 24-hour PSI readings.
The health advisory by the Ministry of Health is as follows:
2. How The Haze Affects Our Body
Some of us may have already felt the effects of the haze, which affects various parts of our body:
- Eyes: inflammation or conjunctivitis
- Nose: nasal irritation stimulating mucus production
- Throat: irritation leading to mucus discharge and clogs up the respiratory tract
- Lungs: inflame and scar lung tissue, feel breathless and cough
- Skin: people with eczema may suffer breakouts
3. Where to Get Haze Updates
You can monitor the latest haze situation through the website www.haze.gov.sg or call the NEA Hotline: 1800 225 5632.
For the 24-hr and 3-hr PSI Readings, click here.
There are also several apps monitoring the PSI readings available in the Apple and Android store.
Do check the latest PSI before having your little days out!
4. Haze Management Measures by the Different Ministries and Contact Numbers
The Ministry of Education has haze management measures in place and they can be found here.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development’s website contains updates on haze management for childcare centres and kindergartens. You can also refer to Early Childhood Development Agency’s (ECDA) website (www.ecda.gov.sg) for the latest updates.
Contact ECDA for queries relating to:
- Child Care Centres at 6736 7631/ 6736 7610
- Kindergartens at 6736 7552 / 6736 7532.
5. How To Stay Safe During This Hazy Season
A. Take care of Your Health
Drink more water than usual this hazy period as this will help your kidneys flush out toxins that have been absorbed through your skin and lungs. Build up your immunity by eating foods high in vitamins C, E and omega 3 fatty acids, such as oranges, kiwis, eggs and fatty fish like salmon. Reduce your intake of alcohol and coffee as these are dehydrating.
B. Wear N95 Masks
Surgical masks will not do as they can only filter particles 0.1 mm or 0.05 mm in diameter. The haze contains very fine particles PM2.5 which are 0.0025 mm in diameter or particulate matter PM10 which is 0.01 mm in diameter. So get a good N95 mask that fits well. Read more about the use of masks and where to get masks here.
Here’s a video showing you the proper way to wear a mask:
C. Stay Indoors with Air Purifiers
Keep the doors and windows close as you stay indoors so that the haze particles from the outside do not enter your indoor space. The aircon filter is not able to trap the fine haze particles, but as the air is cooled and condensation takes place, some moisture that is trapped on the surface of the aluminum fins helps to trap the dust particles. Eventually, the indoor air will become more dry so the ability to trap the particles is reduced. An air purifier helps to keep the air indoors cleaner. The most effective purifiers are those with HEPA filters that can filter out very fine particles.
6. Activities for the Kids at Home
See this as a great time to slow down and bond together at home with the family. Here are some great ideas on how to have Indoor Fun at Home on Hazy Days in Singapore.
7. Indoor Places to Head To
The National Library Board opened some libraries across the island earlier, at 9 am, on 25 September, to provide a space for members of the public to stay away from the haze. Read our story on the best libraries to visit with kids in Singapore.
There are several other places you can still head to for some indoor fun. Check out www.littledayout.com for more ideas!