Do Masks save you from PM2.5 and PM10

Air Masks are becoming a necessity for people of capital cities like Beijing and New Delhi. Air Pollution level in these cities have reached the dangerous level and making it impossible for residents to inhale quality air. Particulate Matter (PM2.5 and PM10) are among the top pollutants apart from gases likes sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons etc. However people are wearing masks to save themselves from the toxic air, but very few know the truth of these masks. Financially capable people are going for expensive masks while other people are trying to save themselves using a piece of cloth wrapped around their nose and mouth. Feeling safe and actually being safe are two different things, and very few know that difference.

Types of Masks people are using in Metro Cities

  • Surgical masks : There masks are useless and a cheap hands-free alternative of covering you nose with a handkerchief.
  • Industrial Air Masks: They are effective but they make you look like a character from a science fiction movie.
  • N95 Masks: These are mostly recommended to save yourself from particulate matter and they do an effective job, while being less expensive. But these masks can't filter the harmful gases.
  • Vogmask: These masks are getting popularity in China and India due to its better looks, size and shape.Manufacturers claim it to be better than N95 but it costs a lot more than that.
  • Dettol Air Mask: It claims to protect you from haze, dust and pollen but being less expensive than Vogmask.
  • Cambridge Masks: These are similar to Vogmask in price range and have three layers of protection, one to block dust, second to block PM2.5 and third to fight bacteria. 

Do Masks save you from PM2.5 and PM10 ?

When we tried to find an answer to this question, we found some disturbing results. Studies done by Peltier Aerosol Lab confirmed that inexpensive cloth masks filters a minimum 15% particulate matter. It can be easily assumed that the filtered content must be PM10 (which is larger in size), while PM2.5 must have passed through.
N95, N99 and N100 Masks claims to filter 95%, 99% and 100% Particulate Matter respectively. But these better variants are expensive and some brands are utilizing the opportunity. But some experts believe that the claims of these expensive masks might not be true, as in real life the size of mask, the way you wear it and the technique used to make it air tight from sides makes them less effective.
Another truth is that none of the above masks is effective at filtering a mixture of air and diesel exhaust, which is most common pollution on busy roads of metro cities.

Check PM2.5 and PM10 level in your city

Shall i wear a mask to protect myself ?

Yes, you should wear if the air pollution in your city is above the recommended levels. However most of the masks don't provide a complete protection, but still they are better than nothing. The choice of mask and the proper way to wear it matters most in this battle to save yourself. Some people don't wear a mask as it negatively affects their earning, for example some taxi drivers don't wear a mask as it gives a negative impression to customers that the drive is sick. Our advice to such people is that nothing is as precious as your health and life, so wear and mask and educate people to do the same.

Note: Take steps to reduce the air pollution yourself. Plant trees and use public transport instead of your own four-wheeler. Carpooling is another better option if  public transport don't suits you. Small steps by a large number of people can create a big impact on our environment.

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