During these hazardous days of high pollution, we can all see the sense of wearing a mask to protect ourselves from the Haze. But it’s not enough simply to wear a mask – we have to choose the right kind of mask and get it to fit properly.
Can I wear any mask?
Every mask available commercially has a specific purpose. The most commonly available mask, the ordinary facemask, is meant to help prevent infection. It blocks large-particle droplets, splashes, sprays or splatter that may contain germs from reaching your mouth and nose. These facemasks may also help reduce exposure of your own saliva and respiratory secretions to other people. These masks are not designed to filter or block very small particles in the air. Moreover, they are not intended to be used more than once.
Haze particles consist mostly of very small particles, 2.5µm (micrometres) or less. These are much smaller than a grain of sand (2,000µm). An ordinary face mask, whether in single, double or triple layers, is not effective at filtering out these very small particles. For this purpose we need another type of mask.
What is an N95 respirator?
An N95 respirator is a respiratory protective device designed to achieve very efficient filtration of airborne particles, as well as a very close facial fit. The ‘N95’ designation means that when subjected to testing, the respirator blocks at least 95% of very small test particles. Typically, the exterior of the mask is made of rough cotton and porous paper and the middle layer is made from latex.
As an N95 mask eliminates 95% of tiny 0.1µm particles, it can be considered as adequate protection from the Haze. Particularly for those with chest problems, reduced immunity or those spending prolonged periods outdoors, such a mask is a necessity.
To work properly, the N95 respirator needs to fit tightly onto your face. Put on your respirator and adjust the straps so that it is tight but comfortable. N95 respirators are therefore not as effective on small children or people with facial hair. If the fit is not tight, it will not provide full protection.
Most N95 respirators are manufactured for use in construction and other industrial type jobs that expose workers to dust and small particles. These respirators are evaluated for effectiveness by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which is part of the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Meridians provides NIOSH approved N95 masks, for RM10 per piece.
For more info about the Haze and masks, read this story in the Star online