Encourage use of N95 masks in public

The recent study on the ill effects of air pollution and brain function does not bode well for an increasingly urban environment such as Singapore (Study links air pollution to higher risk of dementia; Sept 20).

According to the report, chemicals cast off by tailpipe pollution such as nitrogen dioxide and soot are known to boost the risk of heart disease, stroke and respiratory problems, especially asthma.

While Singapore pushes towards greener initiatives, such as a car-lite society with the use of electric vehicles, Singaporeans are inadvertently exposed to harmful particulate and gaseous emissions in their daily commute.

According to another report, on average, Singapore experiences 96 bad air days a year (Bad air days? The problem could well be domestic; May 31).

With a rapidly ageing population, we should consider advocating the use of face masks to minimise our exposure to harmful particulate matter that exacerbates our risk of health problems such as dementia.

In Taiwan and Hong Kong, it is unsurprising to see many people wearing face masks while out in public.

Even though it was once a regular occurrence locally during the transboundary haze period, it is no longer a common sight.

Other deterrents to the practice of wearing masks could also be commuters receiving unwanted attention for doing so as others fear catching a cold or flu from the person donning them.

Perhaps it is time for us to re-educate both the young and old on the importance of safeguarding our health by making use of our stockpile of N95 masks not only when we fall ill or during episodes of haze, but also to protect us from underlying health complications due to toxic airborne gases and particulate matter.

With emissions set to rise in a rapidly urbanised city, we should encourage the use of respirators and not shun those who don them.

Darrell Low Wen Wei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2018, with the headline 'Encourage use of N95 masks in public'. Print Edition | Subscribe