Do Air Masks Help With Pollution? Which Ones Actually Matter?

Today, 13 out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world – are from India. Author Malcolm Gladwell, says that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice makes you a world class expert in any field and Delhi has certainly got enough practice in getting unbreathable air. In fact, the air quality has worsened despite the recent phase two of Delhi’s odd and even rule.

The odd-even rule has ended but the jury is still out on whether or not it had an impact. Sunil Dahiya, Campaigner, Greenpeace India says, “The government needs to check other sources of air pollution industries, burning of agricultural waste, construction, besides vehicular pollution. Curbing them would be a turning point.”

But while the policies go back and forth – what is it that we could do in India? If you’re living in a highly polluted city such as Delhi, what are your options?

Nose up in the air
“The air is polluted with sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, etc and particulate matter,” says Dr. Alok Thakar, Otorhinolaryngologist, AIIMS Delhi. “We generally concentrate on PM 2.5 and PM 10 – fancier names for fine particulate matter.” To keep our noses and lungs clear from the particulate matter, there are three types of masks that are being widely recommended – surgical masks, industrial air masks, and the N95 masks that are airtight.

Surgical masks are quite useless because they have air seeping in from all sides, adds the doctor. It is just a handsfree version of dupattas and handkerchiefs, he explains. Next, there are industrial air masks. These are definitely effective but you would end up looking like Bane from The Dark Knight Rises.

And the third one are the popular air masks – the N95 masks. They are airtight, portable and seem to have found some sort of a following . But they protect you from particulate matter alone. Other harmful gases are still in the air we breathe in even while wearing these masks. Most experts that Gadgets 360 spoke still recommended using this type of mask, as these are probably your best bet while still being practical and accessible.But most of us still don’t use an air mask. We spoke to some a few people on the subject, and almost everyone understands that wearing a mask is practically a necessity in a city like Delhi, most had reasons why they don’t.

Here are some air masks available in the market right now that you could consider buying:

Dettol Air Mask: Amazon India and Dettol have launched an air mask that claims to protect you from haze, dust, pollen. It is has an adjustable nose that fits the face and is air tight. It comes with two filters and has ear loops that can be adjusted. The mask is all black and comes with its pouch. The air mask is priced at Rs. 699.

The Vogmask: The Vogmask claims to be better than the N95 masks that are available on the market. These come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. The Vogmask is however a bit on the expensive side. It starts at Rs. 2,000. On the other hand, you can hand wash them and you can use for longer period of time.

These Vogmask masks also have a second layer that helps you deal with stuffiness during summer – however we still found it stuffy to wear. But it could be because we have been just getting used to the concept of covering our noses. So, whether you are a runner, cyclist or even a brisk walker. you should check this one out.

Cambridge Masks: These are made a bit differently but results are similar to the Vogmask. There are three layers to this mask – one to block dust, other to curb PM 2.5 particulate matter and the last layer is to fight bacteria. The Cambridge masks were launched in China first, and now, they are in India starting at Rs. 2000, hoping to influence users.

What else can you do?
Besides these masks, make sure your house, office, and schools have air purifiers. There are air purifiers for your car too. You can also avoid going to places that have poor air quality. Helpchat, Safar, and Plume Air Report are apps that will tell you which areas are unsafe. Just remember, hazy air is one of the biggest indicators of poor air quality. You see haze? Run in the other direction.