The onset of winter in India’s capital heralds a (now annual) drop in the quality of its ambient air. Residents of New Delhi, India’s national capital, face an onslaught of breathing problems as the city’s Air Quality Index (AQI) goes from bad to worse at a season-high of above 500 AQI.
To put this in perspective, an AQI of 0 to 50 is generally considered to be “good”, while 101 to 200 is considered “moderate”, and 201 to 300 “poor”. Delhi’s air during winter, however, fluctuates between 301 to 400 (very poor) to highs of 500 and beyond! (severe).
How To Choose the Right Anti Pollution Mask.
Given the above context, It is easy to appreciate the vital role the right air pollution mask can play in keeping your lungs healthy and disease-free. Here are 5 things you need to keep in mind the next time you buy an air pollution mask.
Know Your Pollutants
Vehicular traffic emissions, crop burning, dependence on fossil fuels and industrial emissions, are some of the leading causes of India’s poor air quality. Your ideal anti-pollution mask should, therefore, be able to filter out pollutants like suspended particulate matter (PM 10 & PM 2.5), and harmful compounds like SO2 (Sulphur Dioxide), Carbon Dioxide (Co2), O3 (Ozone) and NO2 (Nitrogen Dioxide).
Know Your Mask Type
Your quest for the right anti-air pollution mask can be a confusing affair given you have to choose between simple surgical-style ones or filter based respirators to large gas-masks. You can begin by evaluating the levels of pollution in your area and accordingly opt for N-99, N-95 or N-100 masks. N-95 masks, as their name suggests will protect you from 95% of all pollutants and fine particulate matter, while N-99 masks will offer you a higher level of protection and protect you from 99% of all common pollutants.
Look out for variants that contain activated carbon filters as they can also help in absorbing bad odours, bacteria and viruses. You can also look for P-100 masks if you live in areas that contain heavy oil-based pollutants.
Get the Right Fit
Ensure that your air mask seamlessly fits over your nose, mouth and chin. This is extremely vital since a poor fit will allow harmful pollutants to seep into your mask thereby undoing all the good work put in by your mask.
Try to opt for masks with adjustable straps to avoid issues like poor fitting. Looking for a mask for your kids? Make it a point to mention this fact at the store to buy kid-friendly models.
Always Opt for Utility Over Style
Always get a mask suited to your usage patterns. Active people who like their morning runs, for example, should opt for heavy-duty masks with large air intake valves as they are better suited to handle larger volumes of air and moisture.
People who use masks for limited runs can, however, opt for lighter and cheaper options, like surgical masks that are geared towards convenience and portability.
Don't Compromise On The Quality Of Your Mask
Surgical style air pollution masks are generally not reusable by design and will, therefore, need to be replaced frequently. Try to avoid contributing to your local landfills by investing in re-usable masks. Especially if you live in heavily polluted regions like Delhi NCR.
You should additionally check if your mask brand adheres to international production standards like Personal Protective Equipment by CE and EN 149:2001+A1:2009 FFP2 R (R stands for recyclable) or certification from the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (or EN 149 FFP2 for Europe) as they will ensure your air masks are designed to filter out ultra-low micron (>0.3 microns) pollutants.
The use of anti-pollution masks can go a long way in shielding oneself from rising pollution levels in India’s busy metros. Always opt for anti-pollution masks that fit you well and adhere to rigorous filtration and quality standards to ensure your continued health and wellbeing.