NEW DELHI: Delhi is choking with a severe level of air pollution and smog, and everyone in Delhi is waging a battle against bad air quality. The situation is so grievous that people are falling sick, having trouble breathing, experiencing headaches and discomfort due to poor air quality.
The Delhi government on Sunday issued a health advisory to help people fight the severe air pollution level plaguing the national capital, and advised people to use certified N95 masks and follow user instructions, while cautioning that simple paper and cloth masks are not effective in tackling air pollution.
Anti-pollution masks help people, who have to step out of their houses, to protect themselves from the tiny particulates, the unseen smoke, the volatile organic compounds (VOCs), dangerous gases, fumes and more of which we breathe in.
A mask does the job of trapping the pollutants from the air you are about to breathe before it enters into your body. This filtration happens just before the air enters the human nose. It is all about running the dirty air through layers of filters to clean up the dirt. Each micron present in polluted air is 1/25, 400 of an inch. Some of these particulates can even enter the bloodstream.
Buying a mask has become imperative if one wishes to live in Delhi during winter months following Diwali. While it may not provide complete protection, it helps drastically in lowering the impact of inhaling the polluted air. But not any mask would do, and not all masks even work as promised.
Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is an air pollutant that is a concern for people's health when levels in the air are high. PM2.5 are tiny particles in the air that reduce visibility and cause the air to appear hazy when levels are elevated.
The primary function of the mask is to protect one from viruses, bacteria, and VOCs. To achieve this, one must look out for a mask with good fabric quality and strong nose bands that are adjustable. A non-adjustable mask may cause pain after prolonged use. A washable mask which has a reusable filter would last longer and is the best bet in the long run.
When buying a mask, check its rating – N95, N99, N100, P95, and P100. The ratings denote how much pollutants each of them can filter. An N95 mask would filter 95 per cent of PM2.5 while N99 and N100 are capable of filtering 99 per cent and 99.7 per cent particulate matter. A ‘P’ rated mask signifies that it can also filter out oil-based pollutants. Simple surgical masks cease to be effective while fighting high air pollution levels. A minimum of N95 rating in a mask is required to ease the breathing.
According to the Air Quality Index website, the most common and affordable masks are known as 3M N95 masks, are always among the top-performing masks for Particulate Matter (i.e. PM2.5 Air Pollution).
Other than N rated masks, P rated masks are also extremely effective. The difference between P and N masks is that the P masks can also filter the oil-based pollutants which N masks cannot. But the P masks are way costlier than N masks and are also to be replaced frequently.