Are surgical masks effective against pollution?
Friday, 25 April 2008, Written by Trouni   

You might have seen many Chinese wearing surgical masks in the streets to protect themselves against pollution and you probably already asked yourself: are these masks really effective against air pollution?

These masks are not suited against pollution and the main reason is simple: these masks are designed to protect others from droplets you might spread.

When these masks are tested, the filtration is measured from the air you exhale and not the one you breathe in. Even if they can slightly reduce the risk of infections through droplets, they are definitely not a suitable solution against air pollution.

Quoting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

20061201-img_3300_small.jpg”Facemasks are loose-fitting, disposable masks that cover the nose and mouth. These include products labeled as surgical, dental, medical procedure, isolation, and laser masks.
Facemasks help stop droplets from being spread by the person wearing them. They also keep splashes or sprays from reaching the mouth and nose of the person wearing the facemask. They are not designed to protect you against breathing in very small particles. Facemasks should be used once and then thrown away in the trash.“

If you are sick during a flu pandemic you should definitely wear a facemask to prevent the spreading of the virus. But otherwise, if you are seeking effective protection against a polluted environment or a flu pandemy, you will definitely need a respiratory mask.
frederic muller wrote : thanks for the research
I was always wondering whether it was worth wearing those. I think for some Chinese actually it's quite useful, it protects us from their spit ;)
Julien wrote : Re: Fred
Hi Fred, you are right that spitting is not good to avoid spreading diseases. That's why it was forbidden by Chinese Government during SARS crisis. However, the situation improved greatly over the last few years to prepare the Olympics!
Chris D wrote :
"the situation improved greatly over the last few years to prepare for the Olympics"...

uh huh...
Brede wrote :
Don't think it's improving. Just back from Shanghai; 4 days and I never saw the sky once not to mention sun. Pollution hanging so low in air that I could not see the tops of buildings unless very close to them. The smog catches in your throat and I got bad skin because of the conditions. And the spitting and throat clearing...disgusting. I don't eat Chinese food anymore. Jut took a look at the pollution levels for today and got a good laugh at the official spin!
bjorn wrote : ha ha
wel we can all agree that china su***

jacintah wrote : aww
china s***z a** its too polluted who would want to go there and get polluted and die the next dae??!!!

Chinesianz theze daez haha
N95 respirators wrote :
Pollution...another reason why people in parts of Southern California could wear masks but won't.
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