When Wuan opened the door early this morning and looked out, she remarked, “It is hazy.”
The view outside was obscured by the curtain and then a frangipanni tree. Although I could not see, I could smell. The air reeked of the unmistakable burnt stench. I thought I had escaped the smoke haze when I left Penang. Looks like there is no reprieve for me yet. At its worse in Penang, visibility was 5km. On normal clear days, I could see planes landing at the airport in the distance. On that particular day, it was all a blur.
Smoke haze is common in the South-east Asian region from July to October. Uncontrolled forest fires in Malaysia, Kalimantan, Jawa and Sumatra blankets the entire region with smoke. Daily activities are disrupted and health affected. Among the more common problems related to smoke haze are respiratory ailments and conjunctivitis. It is advisable to wear a N95 mask that is designed to block airborne particles when outdoors, and drink more water.
The Department of Environment under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment publishes the Air Pollutant Index (API) in their website. The index is updated twice daily – 11am and 5pm. The website also has an advisory section on the health measures that should be taken for various levels of the API.