PETALING JAYA - Many Malaysians are unknowingly using the wrong face mask which does not protect them from haze conditions.
They are using surgical masks, which cannot filter haze particles, when they should be wearing the N95 respiratory mask as recommended by the Health Ministry.
Haze particles are less than 0.3 microns in size and easily pass through a surgical mask. To compare, human hair is 40-50 microns in diameter.
However, the N95 mask is not recommended for children or people with breathing difficulties.
Designed for adults, it does not fit and seal well on children's faces, according to the ministry website at www.moh.gov.my.
Also, it may cause difficulty in breathing, tiredness and headaches in people with chronic lung or heart conditions, said the website.
This is because it takes more effort to breathe when wearing the mask, which also makes it unsuitable for pregnant women.
Those in this category should stop using the N95 mask if it starts feeling uncomfortable and consult their doctor, the website recommended.
The next best option for such people would be to stay indoors when the haze is bad, it said.
Also, people should not share masks, for hygiene reasons.
In Kuantan, the Pahang government has called on the private sector and non-governmental organisations to donate masks in view of the worsening haze there.
The Health Department was already distributing masks to the public through health clinics.
But state Health, Human Resources and Special Functions Committee chairman Datuk Norol Azali Sulaiman said he wanted others to chip in.
He said the target was at least 100,000 masks given out statewide, with school children getting first priority.
"Seeing that we just celebrated National Day, I hope all sectors can show patriotism by helping with masks for our children and to raise awareness of the dangers of haze," he said.
He was speaking after handing out masks to SK Tanjung Lumpur pupils yesterday.
The air pollutant index in the state was at unhealthy levels - 164 in Balok, 140 in Indera Mahkota and 153 in Jerantut - as at 5am yesterday, he said.