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Air Pollution Masks – 5 Key Questions Answered

Are Air Pollution Masks Really Effective?

Yes, they are! At least three scientific studies have looked at the effectiveness of face masks for protecting against air pollution. One study found that face masks filter between 14% and 96% of PM2.5, depending on the brand and type of mask. The average filtering capability of all the masks was 48%.

Another study revealed that most face masks are effective at filtering pollution, but vary significantly in how much they leak. The leak inside the masks varied between 3% and 68%, again depending on brand and model. The researchers concluded that the most important factor for mask effectiveness is how well the mask fit the face and is able to seal off particles.

A third study compared regular particle filtering masks with masks that included active carbon layers. Results showed that face masks with active carbon are more effective than regular masks at filtering toxic gasses, such as nitrogen and sulfur dioxide.

Do Air Pollution Masks Protect Me From Viruses?

Using a face mask will block most droplets from other people’s sneezes and coughs from entering your mouth and nose, according to infectious disease experts. Coronaviruses are primarily spread through droplets.

Be sure to use a mask that fits and seals well. Because surgical masks aren’t fitted or sealed, they leave gaps around the mouth, so you’re not filtering all of the air that comes in. Also, don’t touch your face under the mask, and avoid taking it off when talking or making a phone call.

For best protection, choose 95S-Red or 99S-Purple filters, which blocks particles down to 0.1 microns and are treated with a nano-silver coating that eliminates bacteria and viruses. 

If you are infected with a virus and you want to minimize the risk of contaminating others, cover the valve outlet on the inside of the mask with tape, so that droplets cannot exit the mask.

Be aware that the StyleSEAL air mask is not a medical device, and we cannot guarantee protection against any infections. 

How Do Air Pollution Masks Work?

The filters used in modern air pollution masks are “fibrous” in nature—constructed from flat, non-woven mats of fine fibers. Fiber diameter, porosity (the ratio of open space to fibers) and filter thickness all play a role in how well a filter collects particles.

In all fibrous filters, three “mechanical” collection mechanisms operate to capture particles: inertial impaction, interception, and diffusion. Inertial impaction and interception are the mechanisms responsible for collecting larger particles, while diffusion is the mechanism responsible for collecting smaller particles.

StyleSEAL filters are constructed from charged fibers, and include an additional mechanism called electrostatic attraction. This mechanism aids in the collection of both larger and smaller particle sizes. It is very important because it enhances particle collection without increasing breathing resistance.

Does the Air Pollution Mask Need To Be N95 Certified?

No. N95 is a rating given by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in the United States. This rating is only important in heavy industrial sites such as construction or coal mines. For daily use, such as commuting on a train, walking on the street or working in an office, this is unnecessary. Industrial grade N95 masks are often hard to breathe through, hot and uncomfortable to wear.

There are many quality air filtering masks on the market that are not N95 certified. Most of these are those with replaceable filters. The filter material in most of these mask are as good as the N95 standard. However, because NIOSH tests masks at very high air flow (8 times the normal breathing rate), testing often fails due to the smaller surface area of the filters. Medical masks are also not N95 certified, but still used safely in hospitals.

Which Air Pollution Mask is Best?

We might be biased, but here is our list of features to look for when choosing an air pollution mask:

  • Seal. You can have the most effective filter in the world, but it won’t help you if the air goes around the filter. To ensure the best seal, choose an air mask that comes in multiple sizes and includes adjustable nose piece and ear straps. This way you can adjust the mask to fit your unique face shape.
  • Filter. Make sure the filter used in the air mask is effective. There are different standards and certifications, but any filter you choose should filter at least 95% of PM2.5. Look for lab tests on the manufacturer’s website. If you are exposed to gasses or chemicals such as traffic exhaust, choose a filter with active carbon for extra protection.
  • Comfort. A heavy mask that is rough on the face and hard to breathe through won’t be comfortable to wear. When your mask is uncomfortable, you will tend to take it off more often, losing protection. This is even more true when dealing with children, who are often very active. Look for masks that are lightweight, easy to breathe through and includes an exhalation valve that reduces heat buildup.
  • Cost. Single use disposable masks are expensive in the long run. Even reusable masks can turn out to be expensive, if the filters can’t be replaced. For optimal protection, you need clean filters. Washing the filters are not a solution, as the water causes them to lose effectiveness. Instead, spend a little more money on a mask with replaceable filters. While the investment up front is a little more, replacement filters are cheap and affordable in the long run.
  • Design. You’re dressed up and ready to go to work or go out with friends. You don’t want to match your nice clothes with an industrial-looking respirator or medical mask that makes you look like you are ill. Choose a mask that matches your mood or wardrobe. Think of it as an accessory, like a tie. A nice looking mask also makes you look more approachable to strangers.
  • Eco-friendliness. We only get one life and one planet. Throw-away disposable masks are a huge and unnecessary burden on the environment. Think of the planet when you choose a mask. Choose a product that lasts a long time, and with the minimal amount of waste. The best masks can be reused, with only the small filter material being replaced.

StyleSEAL Air Masks have all of these features. Perhaps now you see why we think StyleSEAL is the best air pollution mask on the market!

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