What about anti-pollution masks?

The market for anti-pollution masks is in full swing and the number of users is rising steadily. Depending on the type of mask and its filters, the effectiveness of the anti-pollution masks vary greatly. This protection also has several disadvantages, such as the heating of the breathed air and a condensation of the sweat inside the mask.

What is an anti-pollution mask?

An anti-pollution mask is designed to protect the wearer from pollutants in the ambient air. It can be disposable (single-use) or reusable (multi-use). Since there is a large number of different masks, it is very difficult to choose.

To protect yourself from particles, the best is to choose a mask that complies with European standards of quality and reliability -  class Filtering Facepiece Particles level 2 or 3 (FFP2 or FFP3). They are disposable and protect the wearer from dust, influenza viruses (bird flu, SARS), and fine particles - provided that all the requirements of optimal use are respected: correctly apply the mask on the sides of the nostril, do not touch it to prevent it from being electrically discharged, throw it away after 8 hours of use ... Such conditions are rarely satisfied.

Its efficiency

A recent study conducted by the Peltier Aerosol Lab, showed that in a day of pollution in Delhi, cheap masks are a pathway for 85% of fine particles. According to the same study, their performance in terms of exhaust and diesel emissions is very limited.

The anti-pollution mask efficiency can be limited by many factors:

  • The type of filtering layer
  • The filter's pleating
  • The presence of a valve, which facilitates exhalation and thus evacuation of heat and moisture
  • Leaks between the filter and the mask
  • Leaks between the mask and the face
  • The shape of the face: the mask must follow the shape of the wearer's face
  • The presence of a beard, which impairs the tightness of the mask and greatly facilitates the infiltration of ultrafine particles
  • The wear: the anti-pollution mask efficiency falls off after a few weeks. Then, the mask or its dirty filter has to be replaced. This frequency varies in relation to the level of pollution

Many use problems

Anti-pollution masks users indicate many use problems:

  • Heating of the breathing air
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Condensation of sweat inside the mask
  • Additional costs related to the replacement of the mask or its filter worn out

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There are anti-pollution masks that are effective against particles but they are uncomfortable and they will be useless if they are poorly positioned on the face