Unfortunately, widely used surgical type masks or face masks (home-made) made out of various clothing materials may not protect you from exposure to fine Particulate Matter (PM) present in the environment, therefore, not appropriate for use, especially while walking in the streets of Kathmandu or any other polluted city around the world for that matter.
Any pollution mask should be able to protect its wearer from environmental dust particles or more precisely, suspended Particulate Matter (PM 10 or PM 2.5). Below is a general comparison between extensively popular Face Mask (in Nepal) and standard ‘N95’ designated respirator.
A face mask is a loose-fitting, disposable device that creates a physical barrier between the “mouth and nose” of the wearer and potential contaminants in the immediate environment. Face masks are not to be shared and may be labeled as surgical, isolation, dental or medical procedure masks.
If worn properly, a face mask is meant to help block large-particle droplets, splashes, sprays or splatter that may contain germs (viruses and bacteria), keeping it from reaching your mouth and nose.
While a face mask may be effective in blocking splashes and large-particle droplets, a face mask, by design, does not filter or block very small particles in the air. Face masks also do not provide complete protection from germs and other contaminants because of the loose fit between the surface of the face mask and your face.
An ‘N95’ respirator is a respiratory protective device designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles. The ‘N95’ designation means that when subjected to careful testing, the respirator blocks at least 95 percent of very small (0.3 micron or 0.0003 millimeter or 300 nanometer) Particulate Matter (PM). Thus masks that come with an ‘N95’ rating can easily filter up to 95 percent of the Particulate Matter (PM 2.5) from the air you breathe.
If properly fitted, the filtration capabilities of ‘N95’ respirators exceed those of face masks. However, even a properly fitted N95 respirator does not completely eliminate the risk of illness or death. (Reference: FDA)
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