For a country known for its greenery, clear blue skies and signature skyline, Singapore looks more like a cloud forest with its thick smog over the past week, courtesy of our friendly Indonesian neighbour’s forest fires started by plantation owners and farmers ‘slash and burn’ agricultural practice. The situation has become so bad the PSI level is breaking new records faster than Usain Bolt, and social media channels have become ‘live’ haze monitoring stations. It has been a while since the General Elections, that we see Singaporeans so united on a topic (other than McDonalds’ Hello Kitty collection).
As the smog thickens, Singaporeans are also frantically buying up face masks to the point a local pharmacy chain reported an increase of 37 times(!) on the sale of N95 masks, and people profiteering by selling the masks online. So what to do if you can’t get your hands on the elusive N95 face mask? A Chicago professor may have the perfect solution.
Before you write the inventor off as a floozy, Dr Bodnar, a Ukraine native who now lives in Chicago, started her medical career studying the devastating effects of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster. If people had cheap, readily-available gas masks in the first hours after the disaster, they may have avoided breathing in Iodine-131, which causes radiation sickness. Hence Dr Bodnar invented the EBbra with the intention of making gas masks affordable and readily available – you can now save your life (and another worthy person’s) for just US$29.95.
Watch the video. It’s worth the 5.5 minutes :)
Until we can find an ideal solution to Singapore’s annual haze problem, we have to learn to adapt to situations. Buy your masks, buy your bras, air filtration systems, turn on the air-con while the governments work (I hope) to find efficient agricultural alternatives to the primitive slash-and-burn method. It will be a thin line jeopardizing a farmer’s livelihood by telling him his farming method is jeopardizing the health of people 1,561km away. Lots need to be done on educating them on alternative farming methods, technology transfers and infrastructure funding before a sustainable solution can be achieved. From what we see of the attitude of the Indonesian government, I think it may take a while. A long while.
Meanwhile, for those in Singapore reading this, take care, drink lots of water and stay indoors! Just in case you need some music to entertain yourself, Bloomberg has come up with the perfect playlist ;)
The Haze Playlist:
- “We Didn’t Start the Fire” – Billy Joel
- “Leave me breathless” – The Corrs
- “Harder to Breathe” – Maroon 5
- “Blurred Lines” – Robin Thicke
- “Purple Haze” – Jimi Hendrix
- “Smoke on the Water” – Deep Purple
- “Smoke gets in your eyes” – Jo Stafford
- “The Fog” – Kate Bush
- “A Foggy Day” – Fred Astaire
- “Firestarter” – Prodigy
- “Beds are Burning” – Midnight Oil
- “Light my Fire” – The Doors