With the PSI entering the "unhealthy" range, the Singapore haze can cause a major dent in your monthly budget. Here's what to watch out for.
There’s something wrong with our clean air. Such as, it’s not there anymore.
Most of us know the Singapore haze is a health hazard, but have you considered its effect on your pocket? Here are seven ways the haze is hurting more than just your lungs.
1) Your health care costs may go up
According to the Health Promotion Board, being in the haze can trigger serious conditions in people already suffering from respiratory illnesses (e.g. asthma) or cardiovascular problems (e.g. hypertension). Even worse, you may not know you’re sick for almost up to three days -- then out come the medical bills and messed up work routine.
In order to avoid a visit to the doctor, stay indoors if possible. Limit outdoor activities to under 45 minutes, and this is definitely the wrong time for a barbeque or long jog along the beach.
2) Prepare to buy air purifiers, fans and N95 masks
The best way to keep the haze out of your home is to close up the doors and windows. The problem is that the Singapore weather may then turn your home into a sauna. This leads to a rock and hard place situation, where you are choosing between intense heat and sooty lungs.
A fan is the best compromise. Just be sure not to turn on the fan when the windows are open, or you’re just circulating dust.
A box of 20 N95 masks costs about $20, adding to another hole in your pocket. While you can reuse your N95 mask for a few days, the National Environment Agency advises it should be changed when it is soiled or distorted in shape. It should most definitely not be shared.
For those of you with respiratory problems, or who have elderly people, pregnant women, and children at home, you might need an air purifier with a HEPA filter. These start at S$200 for small bedroom units, and can be as expensive as S$1,000 for larger rooms.
3) Work outdoors? Maybe it’s worth taking leave
If you have a job working outdoors, now may be a good time to use your leave. Whether you’re selling insurance at a roadshow or you’re a fitness trainer, remember this: it’s better to lose a few days of work, then to get sick and miss weeks of it.
4) Higher laundry costs
The grey smog you’re seeing is caused by particulate matter - solids suspended in the air, which quickly clings to things. Things like damp clothes. So if you decide to hang your laundry out, here’s something consider:
In 2013, when the PSI climbed above 200, a white shirt hung out to dry would turn grey in around two hours. There’s no reason to believe it will be different this time.
In short, hang your damp clothes out to dry and you may (1) use more water and detergent for a second clean, or (2) end up buying new clothes if that ash grey colour proves permanent.
5) May cause or worsen chronic asthma in children
The Ministry of Health says the haze can cause “development of chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma, in children”. In short, that means children without asthma can develop it and suffer from it permanently, especially if PSI levels reach "hazardous" levels.
That means the occasional $150 hospital visit to use a nebuliser unit, $15 inhalers that have to be regularly replaced, and worse if their condition turns severe. Oh, and did we mention insurance premiums are likely to go up?
In short, prolonged exposure of your children to the haze can result in a lifetime of heightened medical costs. It might be a good idea to keep the family indoors these next few weeks until the haze settles.
6) Expect to spend more on Grab and Go Jek rides
Unless you want to endlessly inhale pollutants while waiting for the bus, you may want to brace for higher cab fares. The train is not so bad; most MRT stations are enclosed environments. But even then, do you want to walk from the station to your destination?
It’s time to crunch numbers--about $15 per cab ride, versus being teary eyed, nauseous, and paying doctor’s bills. Most of the time, the taxi may be the better choice.
7) Reduce outdoor exercise
Outdoor yoga sessions, HIIT, cycling and running sessions may have to be postponed or rescheduled as a result of the haze. So here’s a money-saving reminder: many of these programmes come with a time limit as well as a given number of sessions.
For example, a yoga package may have 10 sessions, but require you to complete those sessions within a month. Remember to check these details if you postpone sessions, so they aren’t wasted by expiry.
Weigh the cost of exercising outdoors against the potential medical bills--for the most part, it’s not worth it.
Photo Credit: Brian Jeffrey Beggerly
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By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men's Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.
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