Delhi Pollution: Choose the right mask before the smog chokes you!

Check Delhi pollution with the right pollution mask with particulate matter filters. A quick guide to choosing the right mask with expert opinion.

Dense smog has engulfed the National Capital spelling havoc for kids and the people suffering from asthma and bronchitis.  Levels of airborne pollutants are off the scale in parts of India’s capital with effects likened to smoking 50 cigarettes a day. A public health emergency has been declared by doctors in Delhi and schools are directed to remain shut. 

The quality of air post-Diwali has taken a major hit with the bursting of crackers that emit harmful gases of sulphur and nitrogen leaving aside the industrial waste and burning of crop waste. the nip in the air and the low velocity of wind has worsened the situation even more. The air quality index is just 10 points away from ‘very poor’ quality air already. Pollutions masks is the only way to ensure you inhale the least pollutants. The sale of air masks and air purifiers has increased as breathing problems start troubling the people of metropolitan cities.

People, however, often get baffled while choosing the right pollution mask to armour their daily lifes from the pollution monster.

Dr. Arvind Kumar, Lung Cancer Surgeon, Ganga Ram Hospital in an exclusive interview told Nyoooz, “The entire landmass of India remains under World Health Organization’s red zone. Every person of all age group is inhaling air similar to smoking 15 to 20 cigarettes in a year.”

Delhi and NCR air are infested with industrial dust (dirt, cement, crushed brick/rock), pollen and sawdust that constitute the particulate matter i.e PM 2.5, and vicious gases such as sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide, and carbon monoxide. Particulate pollutants can settle in the airways and cause breathing troubles especially for people suffering from asthma or bronchitis or make their way into the bloodstream and can increase the chances of getting cancer. Vapour pollutants can trigger inflammation of the air passage in the nostril. Gaseous particles cannot be prevented even if we manage to prevent the particulate matter, informed Dr. Arvind.

Filter types
The filters used in the masks can be of three types; N, R, P. N-type filters are designed to prevent the inhalation of particulate matter that is the biggest problem with Delhi air and aerosols that are non-oily in nature. The can remove “dust” particles related to coal, non-oil based liquids, metal, wood, pollen etc.

R type filters are chosen for oil-based aerosols that are not prevented by N filters. They are effective for regular particles as well as for oil-based aerosols but are rated for a life of only up to eight hours.

P-type filters are the most versatile, offering protection from oily and non-oily aerosols, and can be used for 40 hours for 30 days.

Typically, there is a filter made of activated charcoal, which absorbs harmful organic vapours. In Delhi with a dry climate pre-Diwali, N filters work the best.

Dr. Arvind further informed. “If you are using mask take care that all the air that you breathe should go through the mask. It should fit snugly on your rose leaving no space. Else a mask will be just a cosmetic. The pores of the air mask should be able to restrict the entry of particulate matter. It should fit it tightly.”

Filter efficiency

Filter types differ in their efficiency ratings: 95, 99 and 100. For a given particle size (PM2.5 or PM10), a rating of 95 would mean that the filter is capable of trapping 95% of the pollutant particles. A filter with a rating of 100 offers near to perfect protection Filter rated 95 is readily available in the market in a pack of three or five and comes for an affordable price of Rs 200.

Right fit
Every bit of air you inhale should filter through the mask. To make the mechanism effective, try a mask that fits in tightly on your face. No matter how good the filter is, its effectiveness will be negligible if it doesn’t form a proper seal around your nose and mouth. This is one of the biggest reasons why cloth masks or surgical masks are of no worth.

Air masks no matter what you purchase is effective when the level of particulate matter is within a few percentage points of the ‘safe’ limit. Unfortunately, Delhi’s pollution levels after Diwali exceeds ‘safe’ limits. The practicability of this mask is barely any.

“One cannot use mask all the time. It can battle acute crises but is not a feasible option as a long time measure “ opined Dr. Arvind.

Nevertheless, using an N95 mask is necessary for the inhabitants of Delhi or other metros.


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