Are the Anti-pollution Masks Effective? Choose Wisely!

Delhi is covered with a thick layer of smog and pollution which is speculated to come from burning of forests in Punjab.

The city is chocked with dangerously high levels of smoke and particulate manner and the problem is nowhere seeming to get better. There are numerous cases of headaches, eye-itching, congestion, lung infections and even road accidents.

People are trying every possibility to survive each day and to not give up to this notorious smog that overtook the entire Delhi-NCR three days ago.

Be it water filters, air purifiers, eating jaggery, staying indoors, shutting schools, people have tried almost each and everything; so much so that it has gone for a run for face masks which is supposed to be the easiest, cheapest and the most-effective way to combat pollution.

You look around and people are blindly buying and wearing masks without knowing if it is doing any good to them!

This is a perfect scenario for counterfeiters! What better than an emergency condition wherein people are ready to pay any amount to survive. Counterfeit masks and air-purifiers are almost everywhere. Not just this, the prices of filters, air-purifiers and masks have suddenly hiked.

According to experts, not every mask is equally effective. Wearing simple cotton masks or surgical masks don’t fully seal against the face and could be dangerous because it leads to a false sense of security.

It is so disturbing to see that people are walking around thinking wearing these things is safe, but they almost certainly are not.

For people looking for those perfect masks to fight smog, here are some quick tips for mask shopping:

• Fitting on your face – The most important element is how a mask fits against your face. There are air gaps that allow particulate matter to enter which renders the mask useless. Some of the popular Chinese masks are no good. The vast majority of masks are made up of cotton which has lots of leakages.

• The material of the mask – The mask is differentiated into good or bad on its ability to filter out the smallest particulate matter. Cotton masks or surgical masks are not very effective. The U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health certifies masks based on the amount of particulate matter filtered out. For example, a very popular mask with an N95 rating means mask filters out 95% of airborne particulates.

• Usefulness – The surgical masks that majority of the population is spotted wearing are basically of no use. Those masks are useful in surgical operations so that the patient’s wounds are not infected from the mucus or germs from the mouth of the doctors or nurses. It is made up of very thin material which hardly does any good to protect against smog and pollution.

• Ventilation and air-exchange – Good ventilation matters, especially for those exercising outside. Some masks also rest away from the face making way for good breathing space, while others might be too suffocating for heavy exertion.

Wearing a facemask to get away with the exposure to air pollution can be difficult for some people as it can make them feel extremely uncomfortable and there might be difficulties in breathing and may also make them feel claustrophobic.

In addition, a facemask is only effective if it provides a good seal around the face. Men with beards or who are unshaven might experience some problems in getting tight fit around the nose or mouth.

As the majority of us spend our time indoors, we need to realise that wearing of masks and feeling protected is not doing any good. At this serious moment where we are struggling to breathe fresh air, having air purifiers and filters are a better way to stay away from those harmful air-pollutants.

By Shobhit Gupta
Group Director, Holostik Group

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