I remember walking outside a couple weeks ago telling C, “wow, it smells like something’s burning.” That familiar smell of smoke filled my nose as walked to the train station, undoubtedly making another trip to the mall to continue buying more baby things. I say familiar, because if you grew up in Southern California like me, you are all too familiar with the fire dangers that come with the infamous Santa Ana winds! Well, 2 weeks ago seems like fresh Rocky Mountain air compared to what we are all subjected to inhaling now.
Schools are closed, pharmacies have run out of face masks, hospitals are gearing up for increased cases of asthma attacks and other breathing-related issues, offices are encouraging their employes to work from home and the government has even declared a state of emergency in areas affected most by this “haze.” Haze seems like an all-too nice of a word to describe this cloud of toxic chemicals shrouding the country! Sort of like when nurses say you are going to experience a little bit of “discomfort”… meaning, really, this is going to hurt like hell!
So why all this haze? Well, as it turns out – and until last week, I had no idea this was even an issue, apparently there are forest fires burning out of control in Indonesia right now as illegal fire-starters are now scrambling to contain these fires, and Indonesian government officials are in-turn scrambling to do some PR damage control and find a way to mitigate the adverse affect of the smoke silently creeping to neighboring countries. Sadly, there seems less being done to prevent the illegal clearing of forests with fires, and more of a blame game between Malaysia and Indonesia over who is “more” responsible for this catastrophe. Malaysia is all too quick to point the accusatory finger at Indonesia saying more should be done to stop this pollution, while Indonesia is quick to retort that some of these plantations starting the fires are in-fact Malay-owned!
Sadly, while the debate continues over who’s fault this is, the real losers are the poor people like us having to breathe this crap into our lungs daily! Not to mention the Malaysian tourism industry. Outdoor activities are being cancelled left and right, patrons are choosing to stay indoors rather than brave the smoke to dine out or shop, and even the fate of the famous Kuala Lumpur marathon is still “hazy” as race officials try to decide if air quality is decent enough for the 33,000 runners slated to run 26.2 miles this Sunday!
So while the AQI (air quality index) continues to vacillate from unhealthy to hazardous ranges across the Malaysian states, here are a few tips you can employ to try and reduce your exposure to the haze. Believe me, with a little one still cooking inside, I am doing everything I can to protect her, and myself from ingesting this smoke:
- Barricade yourself indoors. I know it’s nice to open your windows to allow “fresh” air inside, especially in the early morning hours, but please keep your windows and doors shut. Else your place will smell like you had just had a bonfire the night before.
- Get that AC-running. Might help clear the air a bit, not to mention extremely helpful if you are so fortunate enough to have the AC-equipped with air pollutant filters.
- Get the mop out! Put that broom away, and start mopping. Can do much more to clean up any residual smoke residue already in the house.
- Stay Indoors. Duh! Avoid unnecessary outdoor activities folks. Not worth it.
- Hydrate hydrate hydrate. The health advisory board is recommending a minimum of 2 litres daily. If you’re pregnant, double it!
- Wash hands and face. You’ll be surprised what a quick trip to the mailbox or market will do to your skin. Wash off the pollutants, and please, if you must go outside, wear a mask (if you can find one).
- Eat-in. Try to avoid eating out, especially outdoor places where food is subjected to this toxic air for hours.
- Pray for winds and RAIN: Okay, this one is a bit of a joke, but there lies truth in all jests, right? Rain will help purify the air (albeit it’s best to avoid the toxic rain showers that result, the aftermath is much cleaner air). Wind will also help push the problem from your area and dissipate the thick, bad air.
An Indonesian minister is quoted in saying yesterday, “Let me remind our friends from Malaysia, Singapore, don’t just because of the haze tell stories to the world. It’s called sharing, you go through good times together, don’t make noise to the world when things go bad. It’s just like husband and wife, don’t take your quarrels outside,” he added. I hate to be the one to break it to him, but this problem has already gone OUTSIDE!
Just goes to show you, nothing good EVER comes from destroying the environment for commercial gains. Stay safe folks!