Buyer's Guide - Why wear a mask? (1/3)
Monday, 28 April 2008, Written by Trouni   

What is air pollution? Is it really harmful? Is a mask really needed and is it really effective?

Here are some answers to these questions you may have already asked yourself.


Pollution sources

Pollution caused by car traffic

Air pollution is the contamination of the air with noxious gases, bacteria and particles in concentrations that endanger health of humans, animals or plants.

Outdoor pollution is made of of two distinct categories:

Most types of pollution can be put into one or other category, and depending on where you live, the main type of pollution you will be exposed to will differ, as well as the type of filtration you will need. Even in China, different cities have a different type of air pollution.

Particles are emitted from construction sites Pollutants have many different sources, such as car traffic, factories, construction sites, coal, etc.

Looking for more details about pollutants? Learn what is air pollution made of?

Impact of pollution on your health

Depending on the pollutants, the concentrations you are exposed to, and the duration of your exposure, pollution has different impacts on your health.
Air pollution can affect your heath but also your daily life in many different ways: from coughing, irritation of the mucosa of the eyes/nose/throat, to chronic bronchitis, severe respiratory illnesses, or even cancer or heart attacks.

If you want to know exactly how your health is affected by pollution, read more informations about some major pollutants found in urban air pollution:

Or read more about what is air pollution made of?

Beijingers on Tiananmen Square ignoring a pollution warningBeijingers on Tiananmen Square ignoring a pollution warning (source: NY Times)

Efficiency of a mask

A mask can reduce dramatically your exposure to pollution and thus the impact on your health.

Unfortunately, the perfect protection doesn't exist and no mask will provide you a total filtration of air pollution. But masks do strongly lower the concentration of pollutants, bringing it to a level which will be not or at least less harmful for your health.

For example, a mask complying with the FFP1 european standard will filter out more than 80% of the particles contained in the air you breathe. It means that on a heavily polluted day (particles concentration of 250 µg/m³ for example), wearing this mask would reduce the particles concentration to less than 50 µg/m³.

50µg/m³ is the recommended WHO guideline for daily exposure. At 250µg/m³, short-term mortality (mortality right after short-term exposure to pollution) is 10% higher than at 50µg/m³!

Next: What masks are available?

back to guide overview



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