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Making your home smog-proof

Getting a home air purifier could be an alternative to shield against the next wave of toxic smog though it's not an absolute must

Although it looks like the PM2.5 crisis has subsided in Bangkok and nearby areas, it is still predicted that a slight increase in air pollution will return again by the middle of this month. Hopefully, the toxic haze should dissolve around March and April. Yet areas outside Bangkok especially in such northeastern provinces as Nakhon Ratchasima and Khon Kaen are still being severely hit by the hazardous smog as of now.

"I believe that PM2.5 will stay here with us for a while. And we shouldn't only wait for the government to take action. We all also need to help one another avoiding any activities that could cause more pollution to the air, as well as, protecting ourselves," said Asst Prof Prapat Pongkiatkul, head of the Environmental Engineering Department, Faculty of Engineering, King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT).

Dust and pollution are nothing new for people who have been living in big cities, added Prapat, only that most of the public are not fully aware of PM2.5 -- airborne particulates 2.5 microns or less in diameter -- that is proven to have caused short-term health effects like eye and skin irritation and other respiratory conditions like sneezing and coughing as well as long-term consequences such as increased blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, lung diseases or even cancer.

And now that people are well aware of the potential health impact caused by polluted air, they hunt for proper protection.

Purchasing an air purifier for indoor use is one of the hottest trends among urbanites, especially those in high-risk neighbourhoods. Many believe that while there isn't any short-term solution for improving the outdoor air quality, they can at least breathe pollution free air when indoors, making home air purifying machines quickly out of stock during the past weeks.

"If you are planning to buy an air purifier, consider a few things including room size, and the type of filter in the purifier, especially ones that include a HEPA [high efficiency particulate air] filter, which can filter up to 99.9% of airborne particles of up to 0.3 microns in size," Prapat advised.

Whether you're living in a house or a condominium, choosing the size of air purifier depends on the size of the room. An air purifier can handle rooms up to 37m². So, for a room measuring 28-32.5m², a clean air delivery rate (CADR) of 200-250m³ an hour is preferable. The higher the CADR, the better the air filtration capacity of the air purifier.

Prapat also said that while he thinks having an air purifier is perhaps one of the best options people could do to stay healthy, it doesn't mean everyone should own it.

"Though air purifiers are available at different price points, most of them usually aren't cheap," he added.

Asst Prof Prapat Pongkiatkul. Dr. Prapat Pongkiatkul

"An air purifier is the best option if you can afford it, but if not, there are still ways to avoid pollution while you're indoor, such as keeping your house clean all the time, keeping the windows closed, or using an air conditioner that has a decent filter. And always wearing N95 masks every time you're going out."

Speaking of face masks, they are also among the most-sought after PM2.5-protective items as of now. However, many of these masks that Bangkok residents wear are sometimes unfit for the purpose.

For PM2.5 protection, it is essential to use a mask that is designed to filter out the smallest and most dangerous of these dust particles.

"When buying a mask, make sure it has the N95 label, which means that it filters out more than 95% of the PM2.5 particles. The best model you could find is the N95 dust mask with straps that includes nose clip and exhalation valve safety," said Prapat.

"Most importantly, test it out beforehand to make sure that it is the right fit. The key is to be airtight and not let the air from outside get in. I have seen some people on the street wearing N95 masks, but they do so loosely in order to breathe better. By doing that, wearing or not wearing a mask makes no difference".

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