Masks and air purifiers: Going, going, gone

SELLING FAST: Sales of N95 masks (above) are up seven times at Guardian, as Singapore grapples with the worst air pollution it has experienced in 16 years. The PSI hit 123 at 11am yesterday.


    Jun 19, 2013

    Masks and air purifiers: Going, going, gone

    AIR purifiers and face masks are rapidly being snapped up here, after the haze situation worsened over the weekend.

    Home-appliance firms and pharmacies told My Paper that they have seen a spike in sales this week, compared to last week.

    Courts saw a week-on-week jump of more than three times in sales of air purifiers.

    Mega Discount Store also saw sales of air purifiers triple from that of last week. "Sales of air-conditioners and purifiers have always been good during hot seasons. During (such periods), we see sales double. But the haze situation is really bad, so we are selling a lot more this time," said the store's director, Mr Louis Lee.

    Ms Sheryl Law, a marketing manager at Philips, said the firm has seen an increase in the sale of air purifiers this week, with the products sold out at most stores.

    It also received corporate inquiries for bulk purchases of 100 to 200 units, she added.

    "Indoor air is often up to 30 times more polluted than outdoor air. Air purifiers filter harmful agents, cleaning the air of bacteria and allergens," she said.

    Guardian noted that sales of 3M N95 masks were up seven times this week, compared to that last week. Its spokesman said on Monday that Guardian experienced "an unprecedented surge of 1,000 pieces sold". There was also a 30-70 per cent rise in sales of eye drops on Monday, compared to the day before, while sales of throat lozenges were up between 30 and 50 per cent.

    NTUC Unity Healthcare - a health-care cooperative which operates pharmacies and dental clinics - saw a 10 to 15 per cent increase in sales of both surgical and N95 masks, compared to early last week.

    The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) peaked at 155 at 10pm on Monday.

    The PSI hit a high of 123 between 6am and 8pm yesterday, and stood at 97 as of 8pm. A reading between 101 and 200 is unhealthy, while that of 51 to 100 is considered moderate.

    Doctors said normal surgical masks might not be enough to keep out harmful haze particles.

    Dr Alvin Wong of Well Family Clinic and Surgery said surgical masks can keep out droplets from coughing and sneezing.

    "But haze particles are very fine. They can still make their way through a mask's top, bottom and sides, so it's not going to do much good," he said.

    Dr Gregory Leong of Shenton Family Medical Clinic said surgical masks are meant more to keep saliva and mucus from the wearer from contaminating others, and not to protect the wearer.

    N95 masks, which filter out 95 per cent of very fine particles and have an airtight seal, are more effective, he said.

    But Dr Clarence Yeo, a general practitioner at Killiney Family and Wellness Clinic, noted that the N95 mask might not be practical for day-to-day use as it can be quite uncomfortable to wear.

    Masks and air purifiers do not offer foolproof protection either, especially when it comes to very fine haze particles.

    Said Dr Wong: "Air purifiers help filter larger particles, but really small ones will not be caught. Still, it's better than nothing."

    Purifiers work only if your room is "secure", which means the windows have to be closed and the air-conditioning switched on, Dr Leong added. "If you leave the windows open, the bad air will come in endlessly and you won't have a clean room."

    Mr Steve Church, Courts Singapore's merchandise director, said there should be one air purifier in each bedroom and in the living room. They should be running continuously, and their filters should be replaced regularly, he added.