The World Health Organization has called air pollution the “new tobacco” and has named it the leading environmental risk to human health. In response, many countries are encouraging their citizens to wear N95 masks when they know that air quality is particularly poor, such as during times of high air pollution or wildfire smoke. The N95 mask is a type of respirator which can reduce the wearer’s exposure to particles and other pathogens. They are not a panacea for all airborne hazards but can provide substantial protection in specific circumstances. This article explains what an N95 mask is and why you should use one if you live in an area with high levels of pollution.
What is an N95 Mask?
An N95 mask is a type of disposable respirator used to reduce exposure to airborne particles, chemicals, and pathogens. They are not designed to protect against gases, liquids, or fumes. N95 masks are considered personal protective equipment (PPE) and are usually used as part of an overall workplace hazard reduction strategy. Workers in certain industries, such as healthcare and other public services, where personnel must interact with the general public, are required to wear them as part of their occupational health and safety management strategy. N95 masks are fitted with a Filter Media Category 95, Standard filter made from synthetic fibres. These materials remove at least 95% of particles of 0.3 microns in size from the air flowing through the filter. 0.3 microns is approximately the diameter of a human hair. The filters are treated to retain bacteria and viruses, making them suitable for use in healthcare environments.
Why Wear an N95 Mask?
– Reduces respiratory symptoms. There are many common respiratory symptoms associated with poor air quality. These include wheezing, coughing, discomfort in your chest, and shortness of breath. Wearing an N95 mask when air quality is particularly poor can reduce your symptoms. – Reduces health-threatening respiratory diseases. Extremely poor air quality can increase your risk of developing respiratory diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, or pneumonia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing an N95 mask if air pollution levels in your area are forecasted to be unhealthy for sensitive groups. – Reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke. Studies have shown that living in areas of high pollution is associated with higher rates of heart disease and stroke. – Reduces your risk of lung cancer. Studies have also shown an association between high-pollution areas and higher rates of lung cancer.
Where to Get an N95 Mask?
If poor air quality is forecasted in your area, you can find N95 masks in most drug stores, supermarkets, and even convenience stores. Make sure to check the quality of the mask before purchasing. Some have reported receiving masks with holes in them. If you work in an industry that requires the use of N95 masks, such as healthcare or public services, your employer will provide them to you. Always wear them when you know the air quality is poor.
The N95 mask is a useful tool to help protect yourself against poor air quality, especially if you work in healthcare or if you are regularly outside. If the air quality in your area is forecasted to be unhealthy for sensitive groups, consider wearing an N95 mask. However, N95 masks are not a panacea for all airborne hazards. They are effective against certain types of particles, but not all. If you are experiencing bad indoor air quality, you should consider using an air purifier instead.