For protection against pollution and disease
A Detailed Mask Brochure
In India, air pollution is estimated to be the cause of 1.5 million deaths every year – making it the fifth largest killer.
We cannot decrease air pollution already present in our atmosphere because of vehicular exhaust, suspended particulate matter from construction sites, and firecracker residue left during festivals/marriage celebrations. We can only work towards reducing it in the near future. But for the time being, we have to fight and live with it. Apart from pollution, what we need to be cautiously aware of is the communicable pandemic we are currently in the middle of. Our country has the world’s highest death rate from asthma and chronic respiratory diseases. And the coronavirus has accelerated number of deaths in people suffering from chronic respiratory illnesses. As such, air pollution and this pandemic – hand in hand – have made it difficult for people to venture out of their homes. But for those who need to travel due to extenuating reasons, for doctors and other important personnel, masks act as a breath of relief!
Know More About Air Masks
Air pollution protection masks have several specifications catered to by different brands, and are available in a range of prices. Their basic requirement is to protect the wearer from suspended particulate matter (SPM – 10/2.5), sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide.
Let’s get into detail about the differences between N95, N99 and P95 air masks – to be used as per type of pollution in the atmosphere.
- N95 AIR MASKS: An N95 rating mask can filter up to 95% of the PM 2.5 from the air we breathe. It is necessary to know that PM 2.5 has the longest life span in air. It may lead to plaque deposit in our nose, throat, lungs or even the arteries thus leading to a heart attack. The best option is an N95 air mask with a valve or two, dedicated for the exhaled air. These valves help in ensuring no moisture near the nose bridge or eyes. Many sellers are available online, but for N95 masks recommendations are Honeywell and 3M branded masks. These cost around Rs. 120 per piece.
- N99 AIR MASKS: These can filter up to 99% of the PM 2.5 from air. Same as an N95, they don’t work particularly well against oil-based pollutants. These are – however – better than the former due to higher filter rate of particulate matter. For this variant, recommended sellers are Cambridge, Vogmask, or Smart Air pollution masks, starting at around Rs. 175 per piece. At approximately 40 hours of wear time, people might want to opt for packs of 5, 10 and 20s available by some brands.
- P95 AIR MASKS: Main difference between P-rated and N-rated air masks is the ability to filter out oil-based pollutants – which P can and N cannot. Also apart from removing oil-based pollutants, P-air masks can filter out 95% of the PM from polluted air. These masks are more efficient and expensive than N-rated ones but have to be replaced after 40 hours of usage as well. P95 air masks are sold by 3M, and are available for Rs. 10,900 for a pack of 10.
How are Respirators different from Normal Masks?
Talking about respirators – those masks which cater to air pollutants and potent microbes – following characteristics are important for a mask to qualify as one:
It should filter particles from air when properly fitted, and help reduce number of particles or germs the wearer breathes in.
It should be ideal for protection from PM2.5.
It should have NIOSH/EN/ISI and the approval type (i.e. N95; FFP1 etc.) printed on the product.
These should be tightly secured to the face, with 2 head straps and a nose adjustable clip over the nose to allow for a custom fit.
Whereas normal or surgical masks show the following features:
These are cleared by the FDA for use as a surgical mask.
These are not designed to protect our lungs from airborne hazards such as PM2.5 but are effective against communicable infections.
These don’t have NIOSH/EN/ISI and the approval type printed on the product.
These are typically worn for a specific procedure, during illness, and disposed afterwards.
These prevent large particles expelled by the wearer – like spit or mucous – from entering the environment.
These usually do not fit tightly to the face and there are bound to be gaps around the edges for comfort.
It must be noted that surgical masks or even handmade cloth masks are really helpful while going out during the pandemic as these collect/contain the wearer’s virus from getting out. These – however – cannot be used against SPMs and other air pollutants.
A word of advice though. Limit travel unless you definitely and essentially have to. And when you do, make sure to use masks – any kind will do.