To mask or not to mask?
by StudyMalaysia.com on September 19, 2019 | Top Stories
Here are some answers to this hazy question.
Reasons why you should wear a mask
The fine particles found in haze are called PM2.5 (2.5 refers to the size in microns of the particulate matters). Breathing in an excess of these fine particles can increase a person’s risk of developing viral and bacterial infections. Prolonged exposure has a strong association with respiratory illnesses, heart disease, stroke, damage to unborn children and cancer (especially lung cancer).
Bigger air particles are filtered out by the respiratory tract, but PM2.5 are typically deposited in the lungs and be carried into other parts of our body. They can accumulate over time and harm the body.
Groups sensitive to PM2.5
People with heart problems, respiratory illnesses, the elderly, pregnant women and children.
Existing health conditions such as eczema, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and eye diseases like conjunctivitis are made worse by air pollution.
Measures you can take
- Use a mask when going outdoors for prolonged periods
- Minimise or avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor activities
- When indoors, close doors and windows
- Roll up the windows of your car if you are driving
- Use an air-conditioner in your home to help remove pollutants
- Use an air ioniser or air purifier to catch very small particles
- Drink more water than usual – this helps the kidneys flush out any toxins absorbed through the skin and lungs
- Cut down on coffee and alcohol – these promote fluid loss and leach nutrients from the body
- Build up your immunity with foods rich in vitamin C (oranges, guava, strawberries), vitamin E (nuts and seeds) and omega-3 fatty acids (oily fish)
Types of masks
Surgical masks, handkerchiefs, bikers’ masks, cloth masks, and more… do they work? While the N95 mask is the recommended mask to filter out PM2.5, an interesting study shows the effectiveness of other masks using a particle counter that measures down to .007 microns. The figures show the percentage of particles blocked.
In another study conducted on children in India, it was shown that with the right fit, masks* can provide more than 95% protection. In a test where the mask did not fit well on the child’s face, only 50% of PM2.5 was captured. Wearing a surgical mask also gave a 50% result.
*The masks used in this study which blocked above 95% particles included: 3M 9332+, 3M Aura 1870+, 3M 8210, Venus V-430 SLV, Venus V-1120V Beetle, Honeywell white/red, Venus CVN95, Honeywell H801, Venus CN-95 Cup, FILTRA TT-N95 and 3M 9504INV.