The haze is expected to last until the end of November. If you’re riding to work daily, or simply ride for its health benefits, you’ll need to ensure that what you are doing isn’t going counter to your intentions. After all, nobody exercises so that they can get sick! Here’s how you can protect yourself from the haze.
#1. Suit Up
The typical N95 mask, rated for 95% of fine particles, isn’t enough. The Respro or 3M 7000 with 2200 particulate filter is rated at P100(99.97%) – and is much better. More importantly, they are much more comfortable to wear.
These masks have quite a few components: the mask itself comes in half or full mask (covers nose as well as mouth) form factors, and requires a separate filter, a filter holder, and a filter cover.
But these systems aren’t particularly cheap. Figure on spending about upwards of $80 dollars for the whole set. And if your eyes are sensitive to the haze, you should invest in protection for them as well – goggles might seem over the top, but it’s only sensible to protect your eyes from tearing up while riding.
#2. Hydrate & power up with antioxidants
One of the ways your body protects you from the harmful pollutants in haze is by coating your airways with moisture, trapping particles there and then expelling them in the form of excretions.
Your body can’t do any of that without water. Hydration is vital for effective and efficient waste disposal – just keeping yourself adequately hydrated can keep most of the effects of environmental pollution at bay.
You can also boost your body’s ability to dispose of pollutants too, by increasing your intake of antioxidants. Antioxidants protect our cells from oxidative stress – free radical damage – by neutralising and limiting the damage that they do. As we are exposed to free radicals every day, it’s crucial to keep our body store of antioxidants at optimal levels.
So eat plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables – juices are a great way to stay hydrated and power up on antioxidants at the same time.
#3. Take the dominant position
Drivers might not see you if they have limited visibility in the haze. This is especially true in the late evenings between dusk and twilight, when headlights cut a swath through the air such that only the beams are clearly visible.
Take the dominant position on the road by taking up a third of the lane. Drivers may be forced to change lanes to avoid you, and they won’t be too happy about it, but then they can’t argue that they didn’t see you.
Then, when you approach zebra crossings or junctions, always slow down and make eye contact with drivers whenever you can, so that they acknowledge you and give way to you.
#4. Light up
Cut your own path through the haze with high-powered lumens mounted on your handlebars and helmet. With the rise of cheap China LED lamps, you can have a set delivered for about $40, and comes with the required mounting clamps for the front of your bike.
Light up the rear of your bike as well with red LED lamps. Some of these lamps now even come with high definition video cameras so you can capture road bullies. See, be seen and record what you saw!
#5. Take A BMW (Bus, MRT, Walk) if PSI goes over 200
If despite the above measures, you experience coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath, it’s time to stop riding until the haze clears up.
Any PSI level above 200 is deemed very unhealthy, whilst 100 to 200 is merely unhealthy. You should know that clarity of air is not an accurte way to judge air quality – PM 2.5 particles are too fine to see with the naked eye and won’t make a difference to air clarity. Hence even though air outside appears clear and healthy, it may contain a very unhealthy amount of pollutants. PM 2.5 is particularly hazardous as it 100 times smaller than a human hair.
Because the PM2.5 travels deeper into the lungs AND because the PM2.5 is made up things that are more toxic (like heavy metals and cancer causing organic compounds), PM2.5 can have worse health effects.
In 2013, a study involving 312,944 people in nine European countries revealed that there was no safe level of particulates and that for every increase of 10 μg/m3 in PM10, the lung cancer rate rose 22%. The smaller PM2.5 were particularly deadly, with a 36% increase in lung cancer per 10 μg/m3 as it can penetrate deeper into the lungs.
So be mindful of your health and stop when it gets too hazy. One of the reasons for riding bikes is its health benefits. When it stops being healthy, stop riding. Otherwise, what’s the point?