Demand for face masks, air purifiers grows as haze worsens in Singapore

High demand for face masks in haze-stricken Singapore led to stock shortage in health stores. (Yahoo! Photo)

Face masks, air purifiers and eye drops are flying off the shelves in Singapore as the city-state chokes on haze wrought by peat fires in Indonesia.

Some outlets of Guardian Pharmacy reported a shortage of supplies of face masks Wednesday, two days after the haze situation in the city-state deteriorated to its second-worst level and ahead of the Pollutant Standards Index hitting “hazardous” level in the evening.

When Yahoo! Singapore spoke to Guardian Pharmacy staff from its outlets at Anson Road and Bugis Junction over the phone that day, they said that the face masks had sold out and they were waiting for more stocks to arrive on Thursday.

Supervisor for the Bugis Junction outlet, Kalpana Sharma, 50, said the store was expecting “100 boxes of 20 face masks to come in”.

Health and beauty outlet, Watsons, located at International Plaza in Tanjong Pagar was in a similar situation.

“Before the haze period, we can barely sell one box of face masks. Since the haze, we’re selling four to five boxes a day,” said pharmacist, Andrew Lee, 27, who was on duty.

He added, “It’s better to get the N95 mask because it protects you from at least 95 per cent of smoke particles.”

Lee also said that surgical masks are only effective in preventing the spread of germs if the user has flu or cough.

Videographer Shawna Siao, 25, agreed that the surgical masks are not effective.

“The surgical masks are no use unless you carry an oxygen mask with you. But it’s either that or I won’t breathe,” said Siao, who said she felt like she was breathing second-hand smoke if she did not wear her mask.

Online retail site Qoo10 said on Tuesday that the sale of face masks and air purifiers increased by “50 per cent overnight”.

Some of its popular masks include those with stylish designs and one of it was recently bought by Siao.

“I bought the one with checkered designs and it should come by end of the week,” she said.

Air purifiers were also in strong demand during the haze period though prices of popular brands start from around $160.

Home and appliance store Courts Singapore merchandise director Steve Church said, “Generally, the sales of air-conditioners and fans this time of year have always been brisk as temperatures rise and people in Singapore need more respite from the heat. More recently, with the worsening haze in Singapore and the PSI up to unhealthy levels, we have seen sales of our air purifiers triple.”

Housewife Mahani Mohamed Ismail, 54, recently bought an air ioniser, which is another form of air purifier, because it “helps to kill the germs” while making the house smell “fresher”.

People are also buying nasal sprays to help them breathe “better”, according to Lee, who also said that blocked nose tablets have been popular too.

For writer Indran Paramasivan, 27, he carries around an asthma inhaler as a precaution during the haze.

“My last asthma attack happened when I was six-years-old and the haze has not affected my breathing yet. But I have my inhaler with me as a precaution,” he said, adding that his main discomfort is that he cannot open his own bedroom windows due to the smoke.