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How Effective are Anti-Pollution Masks and Air Purifiers?

With increasing air pollution in the country, especially in metropolitan cities, the air we breathe every day contains substances that can be detrimental to our health. For those living in certain parts of Northern India, the onset of winter in October also ushers in the onset of unprecedented levels of air pollution.

With growing awareness about the severe health impacts of air pollution, as well as the fact that indoor air pollution can be up to three times worse than outdoors, consumers have begun to heavily invest in pollution control techniques.

While a long-term solution must be implemented by policymakers in our country, individuals living in these cities are trying out devices such as air purifiers and anti-pollution masks. However, the question regarding their effectiveness in the face of toxic air pollution levels still stands. So, in this section, you can learn how air purifiers and masks work and the benefits of using them.

How do Air Purifiers Work?

Air purifiers use advanced technology to trap impurities, such as PM2.5, in order to decontaminate the air you breathe indoors. The effectiveness of an air purifier to improve indoor air quality depends on various factors. One of the most evident ones is the fact that it will work the best in a closed room – particularly when outdoor air quality is at dangerous levels.

The other important factors are the filters that your air purifier uses. While the cheaper models may be attractive because of their price point, the most effective air purifiers are the ones equipped with HEPA filters. A HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter is a mechanical, airtight filter that works by putting various particulate matter through a fine, multi-layered mesh. Made from very fine fibreglass thread, HEPA filters are said to trap particulate matter larger than 0.3 micrometres in size. If used under the right conditions, these HEPA-equipped air purifiers can be largely effective in improving indoor air quality.

Benefits of Using Air Purifiers

Here are some key advantages of using air purifiers in your home:

  • Lowers Chances of Allergic Reactions

With the reduced level of aggravating substances and particles in the air, you may experience fewer allergic reactions. This is because the source of your allergies such as pollen, dust mites or pet dander is being removed by the filter, and hence it reduces the chances of any reaction. However, an air purifier isn’t a replacement for your medicines.

  • Reduces Symptoms of Asthma

Studies have shown that using efficient air filter systems can offer health benefits to individuals with asthma and cardiovascular disease. These advanced filter systems can remove allergens and particulate matter from the air, providing cleaner indoor air.

  • Cleans Indoor Toxins

Toxins from house cleaning products or personal care items can also be cleared from the indoor air with the right filter system.

  • Removes Mould Particles

Some air purifiers are also equipped to remove mould particles in the air which can aggravate asthma and other respiratory problems.

How do Anti-Pollution Masks Work?

So, what about the air you are breathing while outdoors? Here’s where the anti-pollution masks can come to your rescue. Surgical and cloth masks are not effective in blocking out impure air as they cannot filter out dangerous impurities like PM2.5. Therefore, you need to use masks that have been designated as N95 or N99 where the numbers indicate the percentage of small pollutants that the mask is capable of blocking.

The caveat is that they are truly effective only under precise conditions. The masks should be tightly fit around the mouth and nose, and any slight variation can cause significant leakages and loss of effectiveness. For instance, experts warn that these masks won’t work for men with beards or facial hair. Therefore, when you invest in an anti-pollution mask, make sure you are using it correctly to derive maximum effectiveness in blocking out harmful air pollutants.

Are They Effective?

Air purifiers are effective in sanitising the indoor air but they cannot neutralise or remove all types of harmful particles. In case the substances settle down on surfaces such as carpets, bedding, walls, etc., they cannot be completely removed.

Similarly for anti-pollution masks, there isn’t enough research available to determine if you can gain protection against harmful particles and gases in the outdoor air. A mask with filters can work adequately only if they fit snugly on the face without any leaks, which can be tough due to varying facial structures.

While air purifiers and masks might provide short-term relief from polluted air, there is no research to show that they can shield against respiratory diseases and other pollution-related ailments. Therefore, it’s imperative to also have a long-term plan to safeguard your health in the future.

Bottom Line

Though you might opt for air purifiers or anti-pollution masks as a measure against air pollution, you must also take steps to create cleaner air in your home. Ensure you change the filters in your purifier from time to time and vacuum your home regularly. In the case of masks, it is essential to wear the kind of anti-pollution masks that cover your nose and mouth. Make sure your mask doesn’t have any exhalation valves.

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