Riding In The Haze, Should Or Shouldn’t You?

It is apparent that hazy days are here again, and everyone will be up in arms complaining and ranting on social media or otherwise. But the situation being what it is, what can a motorcyclist do about it?

While those with access to four-wheeled enclosed vehicles will have it easier, some are still forced to use two-wheelers for daily transport. Since it is known that exposure to the haze can be hazardous to health, riders can take some measures to minimise their exposure to haze, notably in breathing in particulates.

The health authorities will post information about using face masks, but not all face masks are created equal. We have seen riders using paper surgical masks that are sold cheaply at RM3 for a pack of 10, but these type of masks do nothing to filter particulates. These are used to capture bacteria coming out of the wearer’s mouth and nose, and not vice-versa.

There are also cheap paper cup masks – priced at RM1 or RM2 per piece – that cover the nose and mouth. Usually unmarked, these simple masks only filter out dense particulate such as sawdust or sand. They are not designed to capture the fine particulates that are found in haze.

For simple, easy, daily use, especially while riding, use a proper cup mask that is marked “N95”. These N95 masks – we got ours at RM6 each – are designed to capture at least 95% of a challenge aerosol with the mask material and filter media. The ‘N’ designation means the mask material is not oil-resistant.

On a higher scale in terms of respiratory protection, single- and double-respirators provide the best protection against the haze. The respirators, available in hardware stores for around RM22, provide a closer fit to the face than N95 masks, and the filter element can be changed when its efficiency drops.

The rating on respirator filters follow the ‘N’, ‘R’ and ‘P’ designations, where N is non-oilproof, R is somewhat oil resistant and P is oil-proof. The numbering on the respirator filter, 95, 99 or 100, indicates the percentage of particulates arrested by the filter.

We did a comparison wear test with various masks, and found that all the masks would fit under an open-face helmet with no issues. Using a full-face meant the respirators were out, due to interference with the helmet’s chin bar.

This meant that the only real choice for the rider is the N95 cup mask. The N95 mask would be the best compromise between filter efficiency and ease of use, especially on a daily basis.

Riding in the haze also means the rider’s eyes may be affected by particulates in the haze, so proper eye protection should be worn, or the visor kept down at all times while on the move. Should the eyes be irritated, wash them with water or a simple saline solution, and seek medical attention immediately if the eyes are inflamed or itchy.

Do remember that visibility on the road will be cut down during the haze, so ensure that all the lights on your motorcycle are functioning, and of the correct wattage. Broken or discoloured lenses should be replaced.

It is also a good idea to ride while wearing bright coloured clothing, or to wear a reflective vest, whether in day, or night. Avoid prolonged journeys while riding in the haze, and take as many indoor breaks as possible if having to ride long-distance. Drinking a lot of plain water will help. - Paultan

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