Before we understand how to choose the right air pollution mask, let’s gain knowledge of how air pollution affects our daily life. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, over 3 million people die from outdoor pollution each year. However, we do need precautions to safeguard ourselves from the pollutants in the air we breathe. Pollution masks are a must for all of you who, step out for a jog or walk, go to drop your kids to school, or drive to work. Even more so, for roadside fruit vendors and construction workers to name a few.
What do you mean by – unhealthy air quality?
To put this in perspective, an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 0 to 50 is good air to breathe. Moderate air quality index falls between 101 to 200, however, poor air quality index falls between 201 to 300. Delhi has been rated as one of the most air-polluted cities in the world with an AQI range of 301 – 400 (very poor) and sometimes higher than 500 and above (severe). Moreover, the city air is packed with smog and pollution especially during the Diwali festival. Therefore, the need to choose the right air pollution mask arises.
Don’t get confused! You will find several options available at chemists or online as soon as you start looking for air pollution masks. Read the tips below to gain knowledge on the dos and don’ts of selecting the right air pollution mask.
How To Choose the Right Air Pollution Mask
In this article, I will talk about how to check air-pollutants in real-time, different types of air pollution masks, their features, and distinct benefits. It will help you choose the right pollution mask suitable for you.
i) Check the air Pollutants present – Real-time
Pollutants are mostly a mix of fuel or chemical emission, dust particles, smoke particles and fine particulate matter (PM) found both indoors and outdoors. Particulate Matter (PM 10 and PM 2.5) could cause premature deaths, lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
The first step to check the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is by procuring an air quality monitor/meter. They are sometimes different for outdoor air quality as they work on sensor-based instruments. The monitors will help you check the following in real-time; common Pollutants also called Particulate Matter (PM), allergens, dust, emissions from building material or household appliances or cleaners and humidity in excess. You may also install Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detectors on each floor or level to send you an alert if there is a high level of carbon monoxide.
(NOTE: In case you don’t want to check it yourself – you may look at Government data easily available online to check the PM).
Once you know that you are above the Air Quality Index (AQI) – you know you certainly need an air pollution mask.
ii) Anti-Pollution Mask Specifications
When buying an air pollution mask, keep surgical masks out of the list. Those masks are not helpful in filtering out the pollutants. Thus, opt for masks with ratings such as N-99, N-95, N-100, P-95 or P-100. The ratings classify how much pollutants each of them can filter. For example, an N95 mask filters out 95% of PM2.5 while an N99 and N100 are capable of filtering 99% and 99.7% of particulate matter respectively.
Furthermore, look out for ‘P’ rated masks – signifies that it can also filter out oil-based pollutants. So, if you live near an industrial area with a high concentration of oil-based PM 2.5, N- masks won’t help you much. Thus, a P-95 mask will filter out oil and oil-based pollutants. These masks are slightly expensive than the N masks and need a replacement after 40 hours of using them.
Also, look out for variants in air pollution masks that have activated carbon filters installed to filter out bacteria, viruses, bad odours and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds).
iii) Right size Air Pollution mask for Each Age
Every face size is unique and fits into corresponding size pollution masks. It is important that it effortlessly covers your nose and mouth without the hassle of adjusting all the time. Moreover, chances of polluted air seeping in through the sides of the mask should be avoided. Always opt for masks with adjustable straps to avoid poor fitting issues, made of good fabric quality and strong nose-bands.
All brands do not manufacture kid-friendly masks. Make sure you buy kid-friendly air pollution masks for youngsters so that there is no polluted air seeping in and your child doesn’t feel awkward.
iv) Check for Functionality
A perfect air pollution mask should include 3 important factors – effectiveness and comfort and long-lasting. A good quality pollution mask should last you up to 4 months. You ought to keep 3 things in mind when choosing a pollution mask:
- Reusable and Washable
- Value for money
An ideal air pollution mask has a certification stamp by CE as a Personal Protective Equipment with an FFP2 R certification at its minimum. FFP2 helps with the reduction of exposure to airborne particles by a factor of 10. The R stands for a reusable and long-life feature of the mask. Thus, every mask should have a CE certification mark on the surface that is reusable keeping in mind the carbon footprint.
v) Utility over Style
I would suggest not to go for style over utility as the reason for using the air pollution mask should not be lost in trying to look fashionable. Air pollution masks are important to healthy lungs as a wheelchair is to someone who has difficulty in walking.
However, get a mask that suits your needs. For example, for those who love to go on a morning run, should buy a heavy-duty mask with larger valves. Since the air is heavier in the mornings and contains a lot of moisture. But, if you like to go for a stroll or walk, opt for lighter ones that are portable as well.
After learning from above what is air pollution and the criteria to buy a mask – let me take you through the various kinds of air pollution masks available in the market and their key features.
Different Types of Air Pollution Masks
Here are 6 Types of Air Pollution Masks for an overview of the product features and benefits before you decide to procure one. Most of them are available online.
1. Honeywell Pollution Masks
Honeywell is internationally known for Air pollution mask, Air purifiers, Thermostats and Security systems. Most recommended air pollution masks at Honeywell are N-95 rated, suitable for PM 2.5 Pollution rate.
Out of all the Types of Air Pollution masks – Honeywell stands out as their masks are made of paper with a 3-layer filter media that can even filter out non-oily pollutants such as dust, micro-organisms, and mist. Because these layers have the capacity to increase the filtration time by 50%. They are disposable (cannot be washed), with easy exhalation and breathable valve to avoid moisture. Also, they are available for both adults and kids with a number of superior features and in different varieties.
The design is 3-dimensional giving it the perfect fit to any face shape and the nose-bands are made up of non-metallic composite material. Moreover, the ear loops of the mask are welded and do not get caught up in your hair. It is so comfortable that you can wear it under a helmet too without causing any discomfort.
2. N99 VOG Air pollution mask
N99 VOG air pollution masks are made of organic cotton with a microfiber N-99 particle media filter and a carbon filter with a breathable valve. The distinct feature of this pollution mask is that the valve allows the exit of moisture and carbon dioxide (CO2) from the interior of the mask. They filter out germs, wildfire smoke, scents, molds, and other combustion particles. However, the N99 VOG mask is to be only hand washed and air-dried.
3. Respro – Air Pollution Masks for Active-wear
‘Respro’ is a UK based company that offers anti–pollution masks for bikers (cycling), running, and everyday commuting. Their masks referred to as ‘Respro’ have certification equivalent to N95 masks. Respro pollution mask comes with removable filters, replaceable every month, neoprene rubber shell that is easy to wash and come in all sizes. However, these masks are not available for kids.
Respro masks come in different varieties that are suitable in an urban environment where the pollution is at high levels. It is highly recommended for outdoor activities as the sub-micron filtration in the masks filter particles of even 1 micron in size. The mask has special valves that allow higher airflow with dust and an activated charcoal filter to remove odours.
Respro also makes masks for hypersensitive people who are highly allergic to dust, cleaning agents, perfumes, pollen and so on.
4. Atlanta Healthcare Cambridge N99 Air Pollution Face Mask (washable)
Cambridge Mask is a UK based company and has partnered with Atlanta Healthcare, an Indian air quality solutions company that sells pollution masks in India. Atlanta Healthcare Cambridge masks come in 3 different models: no valve, 1 Valve, and 2 valves. It is best to get the one with 2 valves that are good for running, walking, cycling and commuting to work.
This mask has:
- 3-layer filter – primary filter
- 3- ply microbe particulate filters and
- military-grade carbon filter
It specialized in filtering out 99% of PM10, PM 2.5 and even PM0.3 pollutants. Cambridge masks are available in all sizes with interesting British names such as The Admiral, The Churchill, The Lady Macbeth and so on.
These masks are non-disposable that can be used regularly between 3 to 6 months depending on the severity of pollution. They are also washable but only by hand.
5. Prana Air Mask
Prana Air Pollution mask is a product by the Purelogic Labs India that ensures the best air quality both indoor and outdoor.
It comes with 5-layer HEPA filters that provide maximum protection from dust, smoke, and PM 2.5 pollutants. The distinct features of Prana air pollution mask are:
- A micro-ventilator with an advanced filtration technology
- It has 3 modes of fan speed that controls air circulation and volume
- The mask operates through a battery that is chargeable with a USB port and has a life of 6 to 8 hours
- Prana air mask has a motorized fan that filters up to 6 liters of air per second
6. OxiClear Pollution Mask
OxiClear Pollution Mask is a 5 in 1 protection mask that has 4-activated carbon filters. It provides protection from PM 2.5 particles, pollen, smoke, and dust. The mask filters are infused with magnesium dioxide and copper oxide to remove hazardous pollutants from the air, such as carbon monoxide.
Of all the Types of Pollution Mask (Oxiclear) has an easy flow air valve that allows the moisture to exit from the inside of the mask. Moreover, the filters in the mask are replaceable and have a life span of 100 hours use time. It also ensures easy breathing especially while jogging, running, cycling and exercising. The pollution mask has a 3D shape design with adjustable nose-bands and ear loops. It is definitely a washable mask too.
Choosing the right air pollution mask can be tricky. However, keep in mind that the air pollution mask should be effective, comfortable and prevent you from breathing harmful pollutants and toxins. Do not use a scarf, handkerchief or surgical masks. They are not going to save you from the pollutants.
The increased use of pollution masks will spread awareness and shield you and your loved ones from the rising levels of pollution.
This smoggy season, be careful and fight pollution with useful smog solutions.
Try using the types of anti-pollution masks as listed above – and enjoy a breath-full life! Have you ever used any of the above pollution masks? If yes, do let us know which do you like the most and why!