- Combination of harmful particles and gases pollute air
- Effectiveness of pollution masks depends on kind of mask you are using
- N95 masks have a protection factor of 5
Pollution masks are considered to be an effective way for protecting yourself from ill effects of air pollution. Research has shown that even minor exposure to air pollution can have negative impact on lungs, heart and even the brain. Many people opt for wearing pollution masks which claim to reduce ill effects of air pollution or the severity of it. There are a variety of pollution masks, ranging from simple paper dust masks to the ones which supply clean air and prevent exposure to minute particles in the air. N95 masks are the most commonly used masks - the ones which come somewhere between the aforementioned extremes.
How do pollution masks work?
A combination of harmful particles and gases together make the air polluted. Gases like carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and volatile organic compounds cause air pollution. While these gases are harmful, the real concern is about fine particles which are less than 2. 5 microns in size.
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The ability of face masks to reduce ill effects of air pollution depends on the type of pollutants, the kind of mask you are using and how the mask is used. Pollution masks are usually assigned a protection factor, which indicates the percentage of pollutants that the mask does not remove. A protection factor of 5 means that all but 5% of pollutants are filtered out by the mask. This is given the fact that the mask fits tightly on your face.
N95 masks have a protection factor of 5, which means that they can filter out all but 5% of harmful particles from the air. This effectiveness is lesser for particles which are smaller than 0.3 microns. N95 masks do not remove harmful gases from the air, they can be combined with additional features such as activated charcoal - which further helps in reducing exposure to gases. The latter kind of pollution masks are more expensive.
How effective are pollution masks?
Conclusive studies regarding effectiveness of pollution masks are still needed. What we do now is that wearing face masks is an effective preventive measure for beating ill effects of air pollution. It has to be noted that wearing these pollution masks might not be as comfortable for everyone. Many experience difficult to breathe or even claustrophobic on wearing these masks. It is also important to note that these pollution masks are effective only when they provide a good seal around the face.
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