Anti-Pollution Masks – 5 Key Questions Answered
1. Do Anti-Pollution Masks Really Work?
Yes. Some masks are better than others at blocking particulate matter (PM) that has a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, which is about 3% the diameter of a human hair. Commonly written as PM2.5, particles in this category tend to stay longer in the air than heavier particles. Studies have found a close link between exposure to fine particles and premature death from heart and lung disease.
2. Can They Capture Really Small Particles?
- Cotton or cloth-only masks work poorly, blocking only 20% of very small dust particles in the air.
- ‘Surgical’ masks work much better. (80%).
- Masks for cyclists are better again. (80 – 85%).
- Respirators are best. (94+%)
3. Doesn’t The Air Just Leak In From The Sides?
Air leakage around both cloth and surgical masks is high. Higher end masks and respirators have significantly less leakage. Style Seal Anti-Pollution Masks, for example, come in multiple sizes with adjustable ear loops to ensure a tight seal.
4. Is There A Health Benefit From Wearing A Mask?
In addition to benefitting from protection from germs and airborne diseases, the research referred to above found that while wearing masks, people had lower blood pressure and better-regulated heart rates.
5. Is It Necessary That The Mask Be N95 Tested?
No, not for normal daily wear whilst commuting or exercising.
N95 is a designation awarded to masks by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in the United States. The “N” in N95 does not stand for NIOSH, but refers to the level of protection against oil aerosols. This rating is important only in heavy industrial sites.
There are many quality masks on the market that are not N95 approved, including Style Seal. The filter materials in most, if not all, of these masks will pass the NIOSH test. But, when the filter is attached within the mask, these products cannot pass because the test is performed at extremely high air flow rates, well beyond what is the normal breathing rate. Since the rates are so high the leaking around the seals means the masks cannot pass the test.
The masks on the market that are N95 approved do not have replacement filters so they can pass the NIOSH testing, but:
- are expensive, prohibitively so for many;
- must be washed (since the filters are not replaceable) – it is doubtful that the level of efficiency is maintained after the product has been in water;
- have filters that are not visible to the user so it is not possible to check if they are no longer effective;
- are “one size fits all” – no N95 respirators are made in child sizes.
Masks such as the Style Seal Personal Air Filter are much more cost-effective, more attractive, come in multiple sizes, and have filters that block 99% of tiny dust particles, germs and airborne diseases. Some models offer UV protection too.