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Can You Smell the Haze Today?~ June 22, 2013

Posted by @Karen_Fu in environment, man made calamity, Singapore.
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‘Can you smell Haze/Hazel today? He/She smells acidic …
Not the best boyfriends/girlfriends you can have.
Damned joke, but when you are stuck indoors.
Apart from planning the next steps, you joke.
Even if it’s a DRY one.’-made it up today by me.

Posted to both my Facebook and Twitter sites. I suppose I can’t tell anyone off? Or maybe I CAN.

I forgot which song it was, as well as its lyrics; but the melody was definitely so sing-song. As I hummed the tune, I drafted the stanza. Honestly, the smell is horrible. I have slight headaches despite the measures taken indoors. Guess I am more sensitive. If that’s the case, I can’t get out at the current PSI of around 300. I am also blowing my nose too.

I am still waiting for the haze to reside to a less dangerous level as I write. Not that I fancy semi-invisibility, I haven’t manage to see the mummy exhibit at the ArtScience museum. It’s technically shrouded. I would be impressed if gamblers would still insist on playing bets in this kind of weather. Honestly, in my opinion, this is a now a nation in distress. But life still goes on as usual. Just that you see plenty of people with half covered faces- horizontally across the bottom half of their faces– the Phantom of the Opera would be amused to see us on a similar stage. He sings throughout the night, while we ring in for our rights. Our rights to know when we can have the masks.

I don’t seem to catch hold of N95 3M masks wherever I go. Apart from Giant, I have been to hospitals, Guardian, Watsons, Unity and DIY stores and even toy shops to get masks. Why toy shops? Cos on the way to get proper masks, I saw people wearing cartoon patterned ones that fit the chin and nose very well. ‘ALL SOLD OUT’ was the usual message to me. No definite reply on restocks. I persisted. And I decided not to romp around. I stay put. Where? In front of two stores as I heard someone said the stocks would arrive yesterday evening. There was quite a crowd waiting. Just as I moved slightly away to the ladies and returned, there were queues with people holding glorious white shinny boxes of 3M masks waiting. They were brimming at me…They are like GOLD then. I dashed to the counter only to be told by the pharmacist on duty that it was again ‘ALL SOLD OUT’. I asked why she sold them in boxes of 15 when she could take them out and sold them individually? She told me if she did that, people will just grab as many as they want. They will give many reasons why they want that many. In boxes, she claimed, they would take only one BOX.

A few of us who missed the stock, went around to ask if anyone would sell just one piece of their box purchase. Few relented. In fact to be down to the point, only two people were kind enough to sell. One sold hers to another lady. I was lucky enough to be given one. It was not a 3M mask, but another brand called BIOmask. She gave to me free as she has bought her 3M. I cannot blame them for keeping all the masks because no one can tell when the haze will stop. At hazardous levels, the best action is to play safe. In that sense, I was grateful for that one piece. I don’t think I can ask for more. One piece of good mask is better than five pieces of surgical masks; and those five pieces of surgical masks were better than no mask…

20130622-130917.jpg

I came home with one BIOMASK(see picture above). You can imagine how I felt. But can I say more? There are definitely no praises for this national calamity. I usually praise my country in any light i can. But not for this one. You see queues everywhere. Either people physically standing or writing lined up names on paper to order. Online purchases sales are rampant despite the week’s wait. It seems like we are waiting for Indonesia to do the cloud seeding and do the right thing to clear up the peat fire dusts. But time waits for no one. How to wait for 9 million masks to come in when haze is often at hazardous levels for the past few days? I thought 9 million masks were ready like it was said? But even when we have to go out and breathe in sick air before we get the masks, we can’t get them. It’s a common complaint. And a fitting one. It is not like it is being said that most people would not need a mask and that only the weak ones will need those masks. The hard truth is: We don’t have iron lungs. And these air particles, without purifiers, could seep deep into the lungs permanently. We cannot wait for reports to tell us the poison we take in. Who cares if there is no scientific studies done on short term exposure? To me and I believe many others as well, is that when logically there is poison, it is poison. Regardless how short the exposure is, it is unhealthy.

This is worse then dengue where you can at least prevent it by putting in repellents. This one terror is smoke. And smoke goes into everywhere where air is.

You can live without water longer than you can without air. To me, this is serious. It is not in the case where most of could live by without masks or with flimsy surgical masks. It’s a case where if you don’t protect your respiratory systems, your health will be compromised. Not only the vulnerable ones are at risks, the healthy ones too.

As cool as we can keep it, we need the urgent steps done. The most fundamental one being providing enough masks. The main problem now is that people like us can’t buy direct from the company. They don’t take orders for just a few pieces. They sell it by the boxes. Neither do they deliver all to the public at defined times. So we can either line up beforehand, or we go in at random. The best is to target at the estimated times and prepare to stand there for hours. For sensitive people like me, we cannot afford to wait that long without proper masks. Not to mention the sickly ones. Apart from improvising what we have, make adjustments indoors and how to go about when outdoors, a lot are beyond us.

The Haze now we have is a national calamity. It will have consequences. It’s just plain logic that it will. How much impact? We will see it in its aftermath. It is definitely holding a place in Singapore history. And an unforgettable one on many lessons learnt.

For now, the immediate action is to get more preparation done for the haze – Karen Fu

PS the skies look far clearer now. Need to act before it gets hazy again.

Enclosed NASA image of the great haze.

20130622-131027.jpg

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