A highly polluted grey sky is what welcomes Delhiites every year after Diwali. Last year, the overall air quality index (AQI) post-Diwali was recorded in the “severe-plus emergency” category at 642.
As stubble burning has already begun, the real-time air pollution index of Delhi cites ‘unhealthy’. Amid all this, the one common sight in the city is the use of the cheap anti-pollution mask, be it due to the limited knowledge about the gear, lack of availability of better ones or the hefty prices of the best ones.
To understand more on the various aspects attached to anti-pollution masks, we spoke to Pavan Reddy Yasa, Director, AirOk Technologies.
“There is no doubt that anti-pollution masks will significantly lower your exposure to outdoor pollution but we should not generalise this to every mask. Now-a-days, we see people even wearing surgical masks which serve no purpose. Go for a N99 grade mask to protect yourself from bad air quality,” he says.
Echoing the same, Jai Dhar Gupta, Founder, Nirvana Being, tells us how masks are the simplest protective gear from air pollution and the only protective gear when one is outdoors. “A good pollution mask will reduce exposure to PM2.5 by over 95 per cent and will reduce exposure to odours and gases as well,” says Gupta.
Anti-pollution masks with a battery-driven fan can filter up to 99 per cent of pollution particles due to the high efficiency of the fan, says Rohit Bansal, Founder, AQI India & Purelogic Labs India Pvt Ltd. “It is important to consider the filter as well and make sure it is a HEPA filter. Using such a pollution mask allows the user to breathe normally, without putting any additional pressure on the lungs, which is usually the case with simple cloth masks (medical masks).”
Aspects to consider while buying a mask
If you are looking to buy a mask then trust me, do a little research beforehand because there are too many options and you are bound to get confused. Shedding light on the same, Gupta says, “The only quality certification for a pollution mask is done by the European Union. One should buy CE FFP2 R certified masks, which are reusable and washable, to last an entire peak pollution season from October to March.” Gupta also stresses on the fact that the masks should be CE certified with N95 filter.
Size is another important aspect to consider. “A potential user should look for a suitable size mask, one that can cover the nose and mouth properly. There should not be any leak through the seal and therefore, a silicone seal is preferred. Also, avoid simple cloth masks as they rarely cover the mouth and nose fully and might create leaks next to the nose,” says Bansal.
For specifications, Yasa urges to check for N95 mask which can filter up to 95 per cent of PM2.5 while N99 are capable of filtering 99 per cent of PM2.5. “Some are three-layered masks and few five-layered mask. Best option is N99 five-layered mask,” he says.
When to wear a mask
One should wear pollution as soon as AQI level crosses 50 as this value is considered unsafe. “People with high sensitivity, asthma and other respiratory issues should wear them as soon as they get symptoms like nose irritation and cough,” says Bansal. Whenever you step out, it is important to put on your protective gear. “The coldest time of the day, from 8 pm to 10 am, typically has the worst air quality,” adds Gupta.