Monday, 24 June 2013

Hazy Singapore, PSI as high as 421!!

Sporting the hottest fashion craze in Singapore
As luck would have it, we were right in the middle of the country's worst haze ever. When we arrived, the air quality level in Singapore was hovering at 300 PSI (Pollutant Standards Index), breaching the "hazardous" classification.

The PSI level is reported on an hourly basis by the National Environment Agency (NEA). Note that 101-200 is unhealthy, 201-300 is 'very' unhealthy and over 300 is hazardous.

Last Friday at noon, the PSI  reached up to 421 level. That's when Pinky stepped out to lunch with her former student who is taking her masters degree at Lasalle College of the Arts . She said that the whole of Singapore looked like a foggy day in London, all white, the visibility was less than 500 meters.  She said that while  walking, she experienced difficulty in breathing.

It's no joke. I was mostly indoors in the hotel where the workshop was taking place. The strong smell of burning vegetation was wafting through the air-tight, air-conditioned room. In fact, that Friday, the screen was blurred due to the dust particles between the projector and the screen. I felt my lungs burning as I was breathing and my nose was already runny and eyes swollen. The photo below shows how the haze can impact one's health.

The government of Singapore was urging residents to remain indoors and to wear not just any ordinary surgical mask but a N-95 particulate respirator mask. This type of mask  filters 95% of airborne particulates; otherwise, it's better to use a damp cloth to cover one's mouth and nose. The masks were already sold out and a few stores were selling  for as high as S$10 a piece (original price is S$2). Pinky got our masks in Mercury Drug Store for only PhP 95.

view from our cab at 292 PSI
Apparently, the haze occurs annually when neighboring Indonesia clears their plantations specifically in Sumatra through the slash-and-burn technique. This is similar to our kaingin system where farmers burn forests to create agricultural fields

Our taxi driver said that it was the worst in years and was blaming the palm oil companies of Indonesia for burning over 100,000 acres of peatland. Palm oil is used in the production of cooking oil and is used in the manufacture of cosmetics, soaps and now biodiesel fuel. He said that the plantations clear the land every five years.
Pinky singing at O'Leary 

Well, despite the haze, Pinky was able to swing a mini-concert called "Pinky Amador in Transit". Thanks to Jun and Mylene Flores, DeoVirtucio and the Requiem Rising and instant PA Roselle Effrancia who organized everything at the O'Leary's Bar and Grill (next to the Singapore Flyer). There were more than a hundred Filipinos who watched the show.

Tips for those Singapore or Malyasia-bound during this hazy period:
1. Check the NEA website of Singapore or  Malaysia every hour for it's pollution index reading. The index will tell you the reading from healthy to unhealthy to hazardous.
2. Wear a N-95 mask outdoors when it reaches an "unhealthy" level and also indoors when it reaches "hazardous". (Note to bring your own mask since the country may run out).
3. Keep hydrated by drinking  lots of water.
4. Use nasal sprays and eye drops.

hazy night with the gig crew

Pinky with Vivian and Isabelle
classmates Rachelle and Sheryll with Dr. Rohan and Matthew

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