Who Should Wear an Air Pollution Mask?
When the air quality index is ranked below 100, unless you are particularly sensitive to air pollution, there is very little need for a mask. If you suffer from respiratory conditions or are very active, you may need to limit prolonged periods of outdoor exertion. However, the more severe problems occur when the air quality index reaches above 150. At this level, the air is classified as unhealthy, and everyone may begin to suffer from adverse health effects. At the 300 to 500 Air quality index figures often seen in China, the entire population may experience moderate to severe health effects. This means that if you do need to be outdoors, you should be wearing some form of air pollution mask to protect your health.
Choosing a Mask
Your chosen mask should be airtight and form a tight seal around your face. However, some experts warn that wearing surgical style or basic cotton masks can be more detrimental than wearing nothing at all. These types of mask are rarely effective against significant air pollution levels, yet they can create a false sense of security, leading more people to increase their exposure as they linger outdoors. While President Xi Jinping may feel comfortable breathing in 500 AQI polluted air, most of us would feel a little more confident wearing the adequate protection.
The most important consideration when choosing an air pollution mask is how it fits against your face. An air gap will allow air particulate to be breathed in, basically rendering your mask useless. Many masks may advertise that they are 99% effective, but you need to use your own judgment. If you are wearing glasses and a mask, and your lenses steam up, your mask is not airtight.
You also need to consider the material used to manufacture your mask. The material needs to filter out even small particles of matter. Many masks are rated to illustrate how effective they are at filtering airborne particulate. For example, a U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health certification of N95 is tested to filter out 95% of all airborne particles.
You also need to consider how the mask is ventilated. This is especially important if you want to exercise outdoors. You won’t want a mask that feels heavy and suffocating if you need to heavily exert yourself. A better choice is a mask that creates a comfortable breathing space by resting away from your face.
Finally, you need to consider the style. Some models may be remarkably effective, but if you feel like Darth Vadar every time you wear it, you are not likely to feel comfortable. If you can’t find an effective and attractive mask, there is always the option of wearing a more aesthetically pleasing mask over the top of your effective mask. While this will not double your protection, it will make you feel more confident to wear your mask when you need it.