Even before the infamous Covid-19 there was awareness and usage of wearing masks for protection from air pollution and airborne diseases. Worldwide opinions have widely varied regarding protective face masks. Again it got changed when COVID-19 vaccinations increased and called off the necessity of masks.
The air pollution in the Delhi-NCR region has reached dangerous levels, with AQI (Air Quality Index) readings in many areas of the capital city exceeding 400. The city and its surrounding areas have been transformed into gas chambers, with residents suffering greatly as a result. Numerous public health agencies, practitioners strongly recommend wearing masks to help protect yourself and others from both air pollution and airborne infections.
Substantial evidence suggests that proper masking is highly effective against air pollution and in environments with a high risk of exposure to harmful airborne infections, importantly in traffic, public places, social gatherings, office, and classrooms.
The question is around which kind of mask to wear. Of Course not all masks are equal, some are nearly useless against the most dangerous and harmful particles like PM2.5 above 35 μg/m3 and COVID-19 aerosols. Social media and fashionistas have changed the definition of mask. There are designer masks, dress matched masks, locally made cloth masks in minimum bugs and some people use handkerchiefs for masking. Such masking can at maximum help you to avoid bad smell and some amount of dust but they can’t protect you from threats there in the air. Here’s a guide to decide among the good, the bad, and the ineffective when it comes to air pollution masks.
Key features guiding evaluation
Here are the features that we used to evaluate the efficacy of recommended air pollution masks.
Masks are of three kinds, single use mask, surgical mask and respirator mask. Respiratory Filters come in a variety of ratings that relate to how the respirator performs and what environment type it is designed to be used in. When choosing a respirator it's important to understand that as the letter rating and number rating increase, breathing fatigue will increase.
Respirator Rating Letter Class
· N - Not oil resistant (Can save you from Airborne Particulate)
· R - Resistant to oil
· P - Oil Proof (Can prevent Airborne Particulate as well as Oil based pollutants to enter your body)
Respirator Rating Number Class
· 95 - Removes 95% of all particles that are at least 0.3 microns in diameter
· 99 - Removes 99% of particles that are at least 0.3 microns in diameter
· 100 - Removes 99.97% of all particles that are 0.3 microns in diameter or larger.
Respirator Ratings & Considerations
Quite simply, a respirator with a rating of P100, has been tested to be proof against oil, and tested to filter 99.97% of all particles 0.3 microns in diameter or larger. To the right you can see various examples of the size (in microns) of various substances for comparison.
P95 masks are oil Proof masks that can prevent airborne particulate as well as oil based pollutants to enter your body. Ideally suited in the traffic, and for people working in petrochemical and pharmaceutical sectors. iSafe Mask is one of the best P95 masks in the Indian market.
The key to any mask’s effectiveness is the seal. A good seal suctions the mask to your face during inhalation. For flexible, disposable masks, this suction should be visible, causing the paper to bend inwards and create a concave surface. For masks with a firm plastic construction, you should be able to prevent the inflow of air by covering filters with the palm of your hand.
Masks should be breathable, creating a breathing space by resting far away from the face to help reduce the tightness or difficulty breathing that tight masks can produce. This is particularly important for masks used during outdoor exercise or during long periods of use outside of medical environments, as filtration is a much more pressing concern than breath ability in critical medical contexts.
For air pollution masks, directed outflow through exhaust valves can also help stop some masks from becoming moist with condensation from your breath. Along with filtration efficacy, a mask’s seal is arguably the most important element of an effective mask.
Good air pollution masks use high-quality sealing techniques with fabric or silicon that allow the mask to comfortably fit the contour of your face. This helps keep particles from leaking in or out of your mask, helping protect you from airborne particles while also protecting others from any infected aerosols that you may breathe out.
A tight fit is also critical. Adjustable, comfortable straps help make the seal around your nose and chin airtight, providing another layer of protection against leakage while also helping prevent pain or discomfort from tightened straps.
Many scarves and masks made of cotton, polyester, and rayon do very little to protect you from infected aerosols or air pollution.
The iSafe Nano Shield P95 Reusable Mask is designed with a 7-layer filtration system. The iSafe face mask has a unique design for a universal fit to suit the anatomy of the eyes, nose, cheeks, mouth, and ears. The face mask has a C-cut design for fog-free and clear vision. Moreover, the iSafe mask is made from 100% cotton skin-friendly fabric and elastic.
Why wear a mask?
There are numerous documented health effects caused by fine particle pollution as well as airborne infections like different types of flu and the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus responsible for COVID-19. Wearing a mask can help reduce these health effects significantly.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly 1 in 8 deaths worldwide can be attributed to air pollution. A report by Greenpeace Southeast Asia using IQAir data further estimated the human cost of air pollution at over 160,000 people in the world’s five biggest cities in 2020 alone (Sources).
Wearing a highly effective air pollution mask has been shown to help reduce the risk of exposure to airborne particulates, decreasing the chance of illness and death related to air pollution.
Wearing masks has also been proven effective for reducing transmission of COVID-19.
Masks equivalent to N95, N99, R95, R99, P99 and P95 help provide protection from both PM2.5 and COVID-19 aerosols.
Wear a mask even if you’ve received one or more doses of vaccine, especially if you’re around others who have not been vaccinated. Masks rated N95, P95, or FFP2 are the most effective against particle pollution and airborne infections, especially if the mask has a tight seal and adjustable straps.
Basic cotton or fabric face coverings are largely ineffective against both air pollution and airborne infections, but can still provide some protection against large infected droplets from coughs and sneezes when used with other measures like social distancing. Paper and surgical masks are only recommended for protection against large droplets as well, not aerosols or particle pollution.
It is clear from the aforementioned justification that the N99 mask is superior to the N95 mask, and if we compare the N95, R95, and P95 masks, the P95 mask comes out on top.
Continue to wear a mask, especially when surrounded by people.
It is clear from the aforementioned justification that the N99 mask is superior to the N95 mask, and if we compare the N95, R95, and P95 masks, the P95 mask comes out on top. Continue to wear a mask, especially when surrounded by people.