Masking for breath

Last year, Delhi air was so foul that we were set to beat Beijing – up until then the world’s most polluted city – in a battle of breaths. Everyone gasped, choked and then geared up for a tough fight, blasting it with air purifiers and bracing with an assortment of masks. While the purifiers come with many tech specifications, the anti-pollution masks are another ballgame. Because, just wearing a mask, any mask, is not going to help you breathe easy – it has to be the right one.

Mumbai-based chest physician and pulmonologist Dr Prashant Chhajed spells it out. “Haze can contain fine particles that are 2.5 microns or smaller aka PM 2.5. You need at least N-95 masks for protection as they are 95 per cent efficient and effective against fine particles that are about 0.1-0.3 micr-ons,” he says.


Smog is a deadly cocktail of smoke and chemicals like ground-level ozone, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide that makes breathing not only difficult but also dangerous. A good idea, according to Faridabad-based pulmonologist Dr GS Chabbra, is to invest in a certified anti-pollution mask. His advice? Look for stamps like EN149 (European Standard for masks) or NIOSH, short for US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the type of approval (like N95 or N99) and manufacturer’s name. “These masks are designed to reduce the wearer’s respiratory exposure to airborne contaminants such as particles, gases or vapours,” he elaborates.

Other than the specifications, be careful to get the right fit, says Chabbra. “A good fit ensures that most of the air that the wearer breathes in has to go through the filter and not through the gaps between the mask and mouth,” he mentions.


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