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How Effective Are These 5 Different Kinds Of Masks Against The Haze?

Wearing a mask over your mouth and nose does NOT mean that you’re properly protected against the airborne particles in the haze and the subsequent respiratory illnesses that may ensue. Long-term exposure to fine PM2.5 particles can cause heart attacks, strokes and chronic respiratory ailments such as asthma, especially in senior citizens and children.

Not sure which mask to choose? Here’s the lowdown on what’s available in the market:


1. Paper or Cloth Face Masks

Face masks only help stop large bacteria and viruses in saliva, mucus and other respiratory secretions from being spread to others in the cases of coughs and sneezes, as they prevent any splatter or droplet from reaching the wearer’s mouth or nose. But since these face masks don’t have an inbuilt filter mechanism that can filter out the small PM2.5 haze particles, they’re not effective at all against the haze, allowing the fine particles to enter the body through breathing, before passing into the lungs and the bloodstream. 


2. Cotton Face Masks

Although more effective than a handkerchief and although much more comfortable than the N95 haze mask, these cotton face masks only measure up slightly better than surgical masks for haze protection. Some of the latest cotton masks on the market have built-in N95 filters, but their effectiveness has still to be seen. 


3. Totobobo

Home-grown local brand Totobobo offers a reusable filter mask that is lighter and more comfortable to wear (available at both Guardian and Watsons). The masks are specially designed to be trimmed by the wearer to ensure a perfect snug fit according to the face size, and allows the filters to be replaced regularly for optimum screening against the small airborne pollutant particles. 


4. N95 Masks / N95 Respirators

N95 masks are specially designed respirators that have been proven to effectively filter out 95% of fine particles that are 2.5 microns or smaller, thus protecting users from breathing in airborne contaminants that can’t usually be seen with the naked eye. However, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health approved disposable N95 masks are only effective when they are the right size for the face and are worn correctly. It is not a one size fits all solution at all, and each individual needs to be fitted properly so that the air breathed in goes through the filter and not the gaps between the mask and the face. For the best fit, doctors recommend buying the N95masks with two straps over the back of the head, rather than just two loops over the ears, to ensure that the mask seals properly over the wearer's face. Children are recommended to use the special N95 mask for kids, AIR + Smart Mask for optimum protection.

Do note that The National Environment Agency has warned that using N95 masks puts more pressure on the lungs, and increases the effort in breathing, hence causing discomfort, tiredness or headache. People already suffering from reduced lung volumes or other breathing issues, and pregnant ladies in their 2nd or 3rd trimesters shouldn’t use N95 masks unless advised by a doctor.  


5. Vogmask

Vogmasks claim to be the world’s leading anti-pollution mask around the world and are sold in over 41 countries, including Singapore, and said to be perhaps more effective than N95 masks. Vogmasks provide re-usable, washable microfiber masks (from $43.90) that effectively absorb the microscopic air pollutants like a sponge, and meet the US FDA 42 CFR Requirements for N99 rating. 

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