We have been asked so many questions about these terms that it is time to clear things up. It is of utmost importance that you know what is behind all this before purchasing an anti pollution face mask. Without making sure that a filter in a mask has the N95 (or higher) filter efficiency, you will spend your money for a worthless piece of clothes. So, let us get started!
The mask basics!
Well then, N95 talks about the filter efficiency. So if someone says “This filter is N95”, it entails that at least 95% of the airborne particles are filtered out. In other words, only maximum 5% of the fine particles will enter your lungs and eventually your bloodstream. There are filters that are N99. For them, the filter efficiency will be at 99%.
PM stands for Particulate Matter. Particulate Matter are airborne particles which can have an adverse impact on the health of any living being. And yeah, also human beings! Read more about that below.
And 2.5 refers to the diameter size in micro millimetre of the Particulate Matter (or fine particles) that will be filtered. To put it in exact terms, 2.5 microns (or micromillimeter) is as thin as 1/30 of your hair if you cut it the long way. That is one hell of a small piece and hardly visible with your own eyes, except if there is a high concentration of fine particles in the air.
Now, there is another term which you might have come across: PM 10. And guess what: these are the same particles as PM 2.5 but just of the size of 10 microns in diameter and are not even half as harmful as the PM 2.5. Hence, we rather talk about smaller particles which have come into focus lately: PM 0.3. These even finer particles (aka nanometer particles) are of the size of 0.3 micromillimetre and are presumably connected to Alzheimer or Dementia. Read more in the BBC article: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-37276219.
Why is it important to measure air quality?
Throughout time, people realized that reduced lung functions (including Chronic Bronchitis), COPD, heart disease, and even brain seizures can be linked to the fine particles that enter a human’s body.
If one looks at how air quality is measured, you will notice it is usually PM 10. But the joke is that PM 10 is actually not all that bad. The lungs are capable of ejecting PM 10, over time. In that sense, if you stay away from highly polluted places for some time, you will actually get clean lungs again. It is similar to stop smoking! It takes a few years until the lungs are freed up from smoke particles, and the same goes for PM 10 particulate matter.
And why it is even more important to focus on PM 2.5?
Instead, what one should focus on measuring is PM 2.5. These particles are so small that if they enter the lungs, they will never come out again. And once the fine particles are in the lungs, they (can) move through the lung’s vessels into the bloodstream. As soon as a bloodstream is contaminated enough by these fine particles, the lungs will start suffering and the blood flow will be impacted (eg slow down), and it can even go as far as blocking the veins. If the veins or arteries are cloaked, you are running a high risk of heart or brain attack. Certainly, there are other reasons that can lead to heart attacks or brain seizures, but air pollution is definitely one of the key contributors, especially in highly polluted regions in our world.
From my own experience in India (or other polluted places in this world), this is something which people did not realize enough yet. Many times, I even hear the following sentence: ‘I am stronger than the air pollution.’ This statement is absolutely nonsense and completely rubbish. A human body is a human body, and that is all there is to say with regard to that statement.
Just read a little bit about it on the internet. For example, the WHO underlines the health risks that arise from air pollution: “Air pollution from both outdoor and indoor sources represents the single largest environmental risk to health globally.” (Source: http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/environment-and-health/air-quality/news/news/2017/02/whos-commitment-to-air-quality-from-the-1950s-to-today). And just to make sure: ‘health’ here refers to the health of human beings.
The 3 most important rules to stay healthy!
Rule Number 1: Always wear a mask when the air is polluted.
Rule Number 2: Be sure to always wear a mask when the air is polluted.
Rule Number 3: And just do always wear a mask when the air is polluted.
Now, if we speak of masks, we are not just talking about a cloth mask with super little (or no) filter efficiency. These masks are at best helping to filter PM 10. At best! So, if you choose to buy one of those, you may as well wear nothing. Your health is already at high risk, anyway!
There are many scams on the various e-commerce platforms in India (and all over the world). People try to take advantage of the current polluted environment to make some money. So, do not fall for this trap and do not shy away from asking before purchasing.
You need to ensure that you buy a mask that is having at least an N95 filter efficiency. If you are unsure about the filtration which a mask offers, then ask the seller. You at least have the right then to get your money back in case the seller tried to cheat you! Personally, I am disgusted by these people. And I always hope that they change their mindset to be true to what they sell. It is just not right to make money off the back of health products.
I hope this helps you as a buying guide to get the right anti pollution face mask. And don’t forget: don’t shy away asking questions and writing comments below. I look forward to have an open discussion with you all about this subject.