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choosing the right pollution mask for Delhi

How to Choose the Right Anti Pollution Mask

Best Anti Pollution Mask in India Revealed

Choosing the best anti pollution mask for general use or for diwali can be quite difficult. Many options are available with confusing scientific specifications so it is hard to find out which one to us.

To make your life simpler, we got into the technicalities to find out which mask can work for you.

This is a long post you might want to skip the research part and jump directly to the results and how we got there by using the navigation section below.

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The Verdict: Best Anti Pollution mask

Specifications to look for in an anti pollution mask

Or you can read the complete article

No City For The Allergic & Asthmatic

Anyone who has lived in Delhi would realize just how polluted the city gets. The city already has the unenviable distinction of being one of the most polluted cities in the world and it becomes unlivable during Diwali, the festival of lights and fireworks.

According to a study by the Indian Environmental Portal, during Diwali the level of pollutants like SO2, NO2 as well as particulate matter smaller than 10μM is 2 to 6 times more than normal. This makes life miserable for asthmatics and people who are allergic.

Suspended particulate matter is an evil concoction of chemicals like aluminum, arsenic, sulfur, manganese, iron dust Cadmium, Cobalt that are used to add sparkles and colors to firecrackers and get released in fumes. These are very harmful; we do not even want to talk about how they affect the body.

Any Pollution mask worth it’s salt should protect the wearer from two kinds of pollutants

  • Respiratory Suspended Particulate Matter with diameter less than 10μM (PM10) and less than 2.5 (PM2.5)
  • Sulfur dioxide (SO2) and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)

Different Types of Masks

Different types of respiratory protection
All images under CC. Sources: (1)Pixabay (2) Maskedlion3 on deviantart (3) Wikipedia Commons

Anyone who watches movies and TV series would identify three kinds of masks/respirators.

  1. The simple flat mask, also known as a surgical mask that doctors wear.
  2. The more sophisticated dust and particulate  mask known as a respirator worn by traffic policemen at crossings and tourists
  3. Those post apocalyptic gas mask made famous by the TV series Breaking Bad.

Each type has a particular application:

Surgical mask acts as a simple filter against particulate matter, the respirator usually offers better protection from suspended particulate matter while the gas mask protects against chemical fumes depending on the kind of filter they are fitted with.

Now the question is what type works best as an anti pollution mask? According to an article in qz.com, urban Chinese are spending a lot of money on anti pollution masks that are practically useless. Most buy simple surgical masks that do not filter PM2.5 particulate matter, the most harmful of the lot. Another study in India by the IIS found that most Indian either use the wrong types of masks or do not know how to use them in the right way.

What to Look For in an Anti Pollution Mask?

So how does one select the best possible anti pollution mask?

Identifying the Pollutants

First we need to identify the types of pollutants: gases, particulate matter, metals and salts that are present  in the atmosphere on normal days and during high pollution days like on Diwali. Next, one needs to find out the respirator that offers maximum protection from these pollutants.

For a list of pollutants I referred to a study by the Indian Environment Portal and matched it to the respirator selection guide by 3M.

Anti Pollution Mask Specifications

According to my studies, N-95 and N-99 respirators are your best bet when it comes to anti pollution masks that actually work. Those codes represents the particle filter class; a N-95 respirator is able to filter out 95% of particulate matter (PM2.5) while a N-99 respirator is better because it filters 99% of particulate matter. A N-95 respirator is suitable for almost all pollutants including heavy metal salts, an ordinary filter does not protect one from noxious gases, for that you need a mask that is coated with absorbents like Alumina and Silica.

There are dozens of brands that offer respirators, mainly for industrial and lab applications so things can get mighty confusing. But fear not friend, I have some recommendations based on products that are easily available online in India. The three companies that sell specialized anti pollution masks available in India are 3M and Vogmask and Totobobo.

Our verdict

3M N-95 respirators

3M is a well known name in personal protective equipment. The company’s culture of innovation is the stuff of legends and management case studies. They offer a huge range of N-95 respirators each with a specialized application most of them are not available easily. Several models are available online, I looked at their specifications to find which ones are best suited as anti pollution masks and this is what I recommend.

3M 9010 on Amazon

3M 8511 on Amazon

3M 8210 on Industrialbuying.com

The downside of these respirators is that these are disposable and so should not be used more than once.

Totobobo Mask

Totobobo is based out of Singapore and Hong Kong and a well known brand particularly in Europe and Asia. They have one product that comes in two sizes; standard size for men and a smaller size for women and children.

totobobo anti pollution mask in india
Image used with permission courtesy Totobobo.com

Totobobo masks are now available in India. They are available in F-92, F-94 and F-96 specification, for a city as polluted as Delhi, Roopak, Totobobo’s India re seller recommends a mask with F-94  filters. These anti pollution masks are quite popular among cyclists and come with some really good features. The mask itself is reusable and is fitted with filters that can be replaced.

Seal Check

totobobo anti pollution mask smart seal
Image used with permission courtesy Totobobo.com

Performance of an anti pollution mask is as good as the seal. In other masks there is no way to find out if it is tightly fitted on the face. Totobobo has solved this problem using an innovative ‘water-mark’ technique in which the frosted surface of the mask becomes transparent where there is good skin contact and remains translucent where there is a leakage. In case the mask still doesn’t fit you can always reshape it using a blower or hot water as shown in this video on the totobobo vimeo channel.

Filter life check

In case of regular masks, there is no way to find out when they need to be replaced. Totobobo masks are transparent and their filter is white, so you know it’s time to change the filter when it’s color starts to turn brown or even black.

The price of Totobobo anti pollution masks is on the high side but the mask is totally worth it. Totobobo was recommended by Guardian for use by cyclists in the UK.

How to Buy Totobobo Anti Pollution Masks in India

At the moment these masks are available through Roopak, Totobobo’s India re seller.

You can either send an inquiry on Totobobo India’s India mart page or visit the Totobobo India website. You can also follow their Facebook page for updates and for additional information as they are very responsive to messages.

Or you can call Mr Roopak directly on his mobile number 9871166668. You can request delivery anywhere in India.

Vogmask Anti Pollution Masks

This is a relatively new brand available in India. What differentiates them from other products is that they are available in different colors and designs and look better than the plain white industrial looking ones. Vogmask respirators are N-99 rated, i.e they filter an average of 99.978% particulate matter (PM2.5), which is better than N-95 masks. Make sure that you select the ones that are N-99 rated and marked CV; C stands for activated carbon filter which absorbs pollutants like ozone and sulfur dioxide and also filters out unpleasant smells while V means that the model has an exhaust valve which prevents condensation from building up.

Vogmask *Kinski N99 CV. Image credits Vogmask.in
Vogmask *Kinski N99 CV. Image credits Vogmask.in

According to FAQ’s on the Vogmask website, the masks need to be cleaned regularly with regular water and should be replaced once breathing becomes difficult.

You can either buy online on their website or visit their store located in Saket.

Vogmask Store in Delhi Address

Nirvana Being

Select Citywalk Plot No A 3 & P18 District center

Saket, New Delhi

Landmark: On ground floor right next to the Häagen-Dazs shop.

Final words

An anti pollution mask should be used carefully if it is to be effective. It is important to ensure that the mask fits well on the face otherwise it will be useless. Also remember to read the usage instructions carefully.

Do you have anything else to add? Have you used anti pollution masks?

If yes how was your experience. Let us know in the comment section.

Article updated: 1st October 2016

About Ashutosh Bharadwaj

When he was a kid; Ashutosh read that the most interesting people have little or no idea about what they are going to be when they grow up. Now, inspite of being an Adult, Ashutosh is still hung up on that thought.

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