What is an anti-pollution mask?
Anti-pollution masks are technically known as respirators. It is a device that helps users to breathe cleaner air by preventing them from inhaling chemicals, particulate matter, and infectious particles such as contagious viruses and bacteria. Pollution masks are worn on the face, covering the nose and the mouth, so as to protect one against harmful air pollutants. They filter out air pollutants when one breathes through them.
All these anti-pollution masks are designed to protect users from all kinds of pollutants in the ambient air. Such masks can be either disposable (single-use) or reusable (multi-use). Many of the high-end pollution masks are efficient enough to remove pollutants as small as PM2.5 particulate matter. These masks not only protect you against outdoor air but can also be used indoors for air purification.
Since there are various types of masks in the market, it becomes difficult to choose the right one. The market for anti-pollution masks is rising exponentially after the pandemic. The effectiveness of the anti-pollution masks varies greatly, depending on the type of mask and its filters.
Can pollution face masks really protect us from exposure to toxic particles?
Yes, pollution masks can protect us from exposure to toxic particles. Studies have shown that long-term exposure to air pollution has resulted in several deaths. Exposure to air pollution can result in a range of serious health complications – including lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Pollution can occur from different sources, like wood-burning fires and fossil fuels. The research shows that air pollution from traffic is actually worse for our health than other sources.
Wearing face masks is a common safety precaution. People are wearing face masks when they try to reduce their exposure to air pollution during walking or cycling schedules. This may be a good practice but its effectiveness is questionable. It has been suggested that the use of face masks increases the risks of exposure to air pollution, as wearing a face mask gives people a false sense of security, so they stay outside longer.
As more and more pollution masks continue to become commercially available every day, it’s important to look carefully at how they’re designed if one is planning to purchase it. It is imperative to look for masks that meet national and international standards – as these pollution masks can block a certain number of particles, thereby ensuring a person’s safety. The face masks vary from N95 masks which can filter 95% of particulate matter of size 0.3 microns or larger to N99, which should block 99% of these particles.
Pollution masks primarily have layers of filters and each layer of the filter is designed for a specific type of air pollutant. There are categorized into three layers:
Primary filter – Large particulate matter like pollen and dust are easily filtered out in the primary filter. Particle pollutants such as PM10 are also trapped in this filter, but it cannot remove PM2.5 particulate matter.
Particle filter – This filter protects users against smaller pollutants like PM2.5 particulate matter which are not removed by the first layer and get filtered out the second level. For any air mask to work efficiently, it is essential to have a primary and a particle filter.
Carbon filter – High-end pollution masks with activated carbon filters are highly efficient in removing gaseous pollutants which the other filters cannot. The carbon filter also filters bacteria and viruses present in the air.
Can surgical masks protect against pollution?
In the recent studies carried out at the University of Massachusetts, researchers tested N95 masks, cloth masks, and a surgical mask. The masks were tested on a mannequin to mimic effectiveness while a person is wearing it, not just the particle filtration efficiency.
The surgical mask blocked about 60% of .03 micron particles and over 90% of 1 micron and 2.5-micron particles.
Which mask to buy for pollution?
Pollution masks available in the market may vary in cost and effectiveness according to the type of pollutant and the purpose of use.
N95 air masks – It is a basic air pollution mask that can filter 95% of air pollutants. It can filter out most particle pollutants, even PM2.5, and other oil-based pollutants. When purchasing N95 air masks, you should opt for a mask that has a separate passage or air valve – for the air to pass through while exhaling. The advantage being – it prevents moisture and excessive fogging near the eye and nose-bridge area.
N99 and N100 masks – The capacities of both these air masks is 99% and 99.97% efficiency, respectively, are particles like PM2.5 with. But unlike N95, they cannot filter oil-based air pollutants.
P95 & R95 masks – P-rated masks are resistant to oil-based contaminants while R-rated masks are not. Thus we see that these P-type masks are comparatively expensive and are used for industrial purposes instead of personal use.
Which mask is the best anti-pollution mask?
WHO maintains a ranking of particulate pollution (PM2.5) in the form of Global Ambient Air Quality Database, which contains a list of most polluted cities. PM2.5 refers to the particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometers in diameter. They can be a mixture of liquid and solid particles suspended in the air that is said to enter the respiratory system and cause serious damage to vital organs. During autumn and winter, crop residue burning in farmlands in many countries further escalates smoke, smog, and particulate pollution.
Exposure to particulate matter for a long time can lead to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases such as bronchitis, asthma, lung cancer, and heart attacks. Elderly people and children and the elderly population are most susceptible to air pollution. Rhysley Particulate Respirator N95 face masks have proven to protect more than 95% of pollutants and toxins, bacteria, and viruses. It is ideally suited for hot and dusty work environments, which require long periods of wear. It is lightweight and fits snugly on the face and has an adjustable nose clip providing a custom fit and secure seal.
Based on research, some face masks do help to reduce a person’s exposure to pollution particles of about 2.5 micrometers in diameter. Hence in a mask, it’s important to consider the quality of the filter, how long the mask will last, the number of filter layers, and how well the mask fits one’s face.