Haze, a phenomenon that is known by everyone in today’s society. Currently, there are few states in Malaysia facing this serious issue especially in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, in which the API reading has shot up to an unhealthy level of 200. API (Air Pollution Index) is a simple and generalized way to show the level of air pollution as well as the air safety level that is used in Malaysia. According to the API reading scale, an API reading of 0-50 is said to be ‘Good’, 51-100 is graded as ‘Moderate’ level while 101-200 is having an ‘Unhealthy’ air pollution level.
Besides that, API reading of 201-300 is graded as ‘Very Unhealthy’ while 301-500 represents ‘Hazardous’. If the API reading exceeds 500, an ‘Emergency’ state will be declared in a particular area.
According to Wikipedia, haze is traditionally defined as an atmospheric phenomenon in which dust, smoke, and other dry particulates obscure the clarity of the sky. Haze usually occurs when smoke particles accumulate in the relatively dry air.
The main cause of haze is due to the open burning of waste materials, forests and burn practice by farmers to clear up a particular plot of land for the usage of planting new food crops. All of these are because of us, human, who tends to take everything as granted without considering about the consequences of doing the activities that lead to air pollution, as well as other pollutions on earth.
On top of that, open burning does not only lead to air pollution and haze, it will also increase the temperature of the surroundings.
For example, when humans carry out open burning of garbage, harmful gases and particles such as carbon dioxide gas will be released into the surroundings. The increase of carbon dioxide gas in the air will then cause acid rain, thinning of the ozone layer and raise the temperature of surroundings. Consequently, it will also cause global warming due to climate change.
Furthermore, smoke and gases released by our vehicles or factories are also factors that lead to air pollution, indirectly causing haze to happen. In today’s society, many people inclined to use their own cars rather than using public transport like bus, monorail and LRT. This has caused the rise of numbers of motor vehicles on the road which increases the probability of air pollution, as well as haze to occur. The motor vehicles consume a lot of energy by burning fossil fuels, resulting in an increase of carbon monoxide gas being released into the surroundings, which will affect the amount of greenhouse gases. It will also reduce the amount of oxygen in the air, which may cause illness among the people. If we are exposed to a high level of carbon monoxide gas, we may face the difficulties to have babies.
In addition, there are some negative impacts of haze towards us specifically causing health problems, affect the growth of plants or food crops and causing inconvenience in our daily life. For instance, the haze will cause health problems like flu, cough, allergy and breathing difficulties. This is due to the reason that there are lots of unseen floating dust particles in the atmosphere which will indirectly cause breathing problems, especially to the kids, the elderly and those who have allergies towards dust. Other than that, the growth of plants will be affected as the haze will block sunlight from penetrating the surface of the ground. As a result, plants that carry out photosynthesis will not receive an adequate amount of sunlight, inhibiting the process of photosynthesis of plants. It would be worse if there is no rain during the haze period because the humidity of the air is high.
On the other hand, there are a few ways to prevent the occurrence of haze, as well as to reduce air pollution in Malaysia. Firstly, the government should enforce the laws or regulations so that to ensure that the factories will install smoke filters to avoid the smoke from being released into the atmosphere. Therefore, those factories that do not abide by the laws should be punished strictly with no leniency. Secondly, we must not practise open burning. The government or other non-government organisations (NGOs) should organise campaigns to raise the awareness of the public on the impacts of practising open burning. Thirdly, we should also practise 3Rs, which is ‘Reduce’, ‘Reuse’ and ‘Recycle’ in our life. This 3Rs Programme should be reinforced by the government so as to reduce pollutions and protect our Earth.
Moreover, we should also use unleaded petrol for our vehicles. This is because the combustion of leaded petrol will release lead into the atmosphere. Lead is a heavy pollutant that does not only cause damage to the environment, but it also may harm the people who are exposed to it. Apart from that, we can also use a catalytic converter to reduce the amount of smoke from being released into the air in order to prevent or reduce haze. Next, to ensure that we will not easily get sick or having breathing difficulties, we should wear masks if there is haze. One of the mask that is highly recommended to wear when haze occurs is N95 Respirators because it can block at least 95 percent of tiny particles. It has a very close facial fit and can filter airborne particles efficiently. Even though we can wear masks when going outdoors, it is still advised to reduce outdoor activities if the API reading is high to ensure that we will not get sick during this period.