The Singapore haze is unfortunately back, mamas, but from special masks for kids to DIY air purifiers, we’ve got updated resources on how to keep your children (and your home) healthy and haze-free!
Want even more great info about how to keep the haze at bay? Check out Part 1 of our Haze Survival Guide with great expert advice from doctors, nutritionists, and more.
Last year, fleeing the air pollution in China, my family moved back to Singapore. We were tired of keeping the kids under lockdown at home when they should have been running in mindless circles under the searing sun. This month though, we found ourselves repeating a sad and familiar routine in hazy Singapore – doing our best to hermetically seal the apartment; blasting the air purifiers; obsessing over the PSI; praying for rain; and returning the midgets to house arrest.
Having eaten, slept and breathed the problem of air pollution in Shanghai, here are a few tips culled from my bitter, bitter experience:
Choosing an air purifier
According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), the main pollutant in the haze afflicting Singapore is PM2.5 (fine particulate matter “equal or smaller than 2.5 microns”). According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, these fine particles “are believed to pose the greatest health risks. Because of their small size (approximately 1/30th the average width of a human hair), fine particles can lodge deeply into the lungs.” The UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs concurs, saying that, “The biggest impact of particulate air pollution… is understood to be from long-term exposure to PM2.5, which increases the age-specific mortality risk, particularly from cardiovascular causes.” Children are one of the vulnerable groups.
Because of the health risks posed by PM2.5 in the haze, the NEA recommends air purifiers with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters which remove fine particles more effectively. Secondly, they recommend that consumers buy air purifiers with a cleaning capacity (“floor area and flow rate”) that matches the size of the room being cleaned. Their website includes a very helpful explanation of CADR (Clear Air Delivery Rate) numbers, saying that a good air purifier “should have a smoke CADR number that is at least 3 times the volume of the room in cubic metre, or 1/12 of the volume of room in cubic feet. A larger CADR number means faster cleaning in an enclosed room”.
The NEA provides a list of air purifier models and suppliers on their website, though they do not endorse any of these air purifiers or companies. You can find a good selection at shops like Courts, Harvey Norman and Best Denki. Pictured above are the Novita NAP 101 ($199); the Panasonic FPXJ30AHS ($229); the DeLonghi AC150 ($449); and the OSIM uAlpine ($699).
DIY Hepa Air Purifier
Air purifiers with HEPA filters tend to be expensive, costing anything from a few hundred to a couple of thousand dollars. In 2013, an enterprising American PhD student in Beijing made waves in the local community when he revealed that he could get as good results as some of the best (and costliest) air purifiers by strapping an inexpensive HEPA filter to an inexpensive but strong fan.
The result: we can have a great DIY HEPA air purifier on our hands for a lot less than a hundred dollars (particularly handy when the stores all seem to run out, too!). For more information on how to build your own HEPA air purifier – and a great family project to boot (you’re not going anywhere this weekend anyway) – check out their website Smart Air.
Anti-Air Pollution Masks for Kids
There are plenty of good N95 masks on the market in Singapore that work well for adults but are unsuitable for children as they do not fit young faces perfectly.
If you are looking for a mask for the young’uns, try Vogmask or Totobobo. Vogmask provides re-usable, washable microfibre masks that “absorb pollution like a sponge”. In addition, Vogmask says its masks “[meet] US FDA 42 CFR Requirements for N99 rating, meaning they outperform N95 masks”. Vogmask can cater for very young children, including babes in arms – although good luck with getting your babe not to pull it off her face and chew it into submission.
Totobobo is a Singaporean facemask that is now sold worldwide. Vogmask masks are multi-hued and strikingly-patterned; Totobobo masks clear and unfussy. Totobobo masks are designed to be trimmed by the end-user to fit his or her face and their filters are made to be replaced regularly. Both Vogmask and Totobobo are also available in adult sizes so you can have a full set of matching family masks!
Until the haze lifts, we hope you’ll breathe easier with these tips, mamas!