The short answer is – it depends; but YES, perhaps you should wear it too just to be safe. The need to wear a PM 2.5 Filter in your face mask will depend entirely on what face mask you’re using, the area you live in, and what you would particularly like to avoid. If you are in a Corona Virus high-risk area, it might be better to just wear an N-Series mask (N95, N99, N100, or KN95) instead since PM 2.5 filters don’t block out Corona Virus particles. However, if you’re not in frequent contact with a lot of people and you don’t have access to an N95 or N99 mask, it’s better to just wear a pm 2.5 filter on a much cheaper and less advanced mask.
What Does The PM 2.5 Filter Block Out?
It’s a must to wear a PM 2.5 filter if you live in an area with a lot of industrial pollution. Harmful gasses and smoke may contain small particles that are only 2.5 microns in size, which are 36 times smaller than a grain of sand. These particles I’m talking about are called Particulate Matter 2.5, hence the name, PM 2.5 Filter. Wearing a PM 2.5 filter in your mask will help keep particles as small as 2.5 microns from entering, clogging, and weakening your lungs and respiratory tracts. PM 2.5 particles can cause moderate to severe harm to your respiratory system and therefore can weaken its ability to fight against or resists viruses that target it. To know the air quality of the area that you live in, there are websites on the internet you can consult – such as iqair.com – that give real-time reports and forecasts on air quality all around the world. Look for your country on that site and check it before you go out of the house. Bookmark it in your browser if you commute regularly.
There are six levels of Air Quality according to the Air Quality Index. If you are sensitive to air pollutants, you should start wearing a PM 2.5 filter in your mask at about the moderate level (51-100 AQI) and especially if your area is in the orange, 150+ AQI level. If you’re not particularly sensitive to particulate matter, then perhaps you can start putting on a filter when the air quality of your area starts nearing the red zone (200+), but it’s better to put it on the way before that to make sure no harmful particles ever pass into vulnerable systems inside your body.
For people who have a weak respiratory system such as senior citizens or people with complications in their lungs, it’s best to stay inside most of the time – especially on days where there is poor Air Quality in the area. However, a small amount of PM 2.5 particles are still able to make their way indoors sometimes. Therefore, it will be best for people that are vulnerable to wear a PM 2.5 filter in their masks both outdoors and indoors.
These particles can come from anything or anywhere that burns fuel. Cars, trucks, smoke from factories, or cigarettes all contribute to an increase in PM 2.5 in the air. These particles tend to stay for a long time in an area when there’s little to no wind in that place that will disperse the particles or move them into another place or area. Aside from posing a health risk to all the people inside the area, it’s in, PM 2.5 can also cause environmental damage when it falls into the soil of said area because it increases the acidity in the soil. An increase in acidity in the soil decreases the ability of it to sustain life and makes it less nutrient for the plants and trees that depend on it. It may also end up polluting valuable water resources that we people depend upon.
There are a lot of risks and complications that exposure to PM 2.5 particles create in your body, mainly, to your respiratory system and heart. It’s important to be informed about these risks in order to decide for yourself if you should wear a PM 2.5 filter in your mask.
What Happens When You Inhale PM 2.5 Particles?
Read these health risks carefully and take note of the ones that might negatively affect any pre-existing complications you might be having or have had. If any of these are related to your condition in any way, you might want to start wearing a PM 2.5 filter in your mask and watch out in the online site suggested earlier for any alerts on the air quality conditions in your area.
- Asthma attacks – PM 2.5 has been linked to an increase in asthma attacks for anyone that is exposed to it. If you are suffering from Asthma attacks or have been before, it’s best to start protecting yourself by wearing a PM 2.5 filter since research shows that it doesn’t take a high amount of particulate matter to worsen asthmatic conditions. The particles irritate the airways which might trigger an asthma attack. PM 2.5 particles worsen the condition further by clogging up the airways that have become swollen due to the asthma attack. An asthmatic should be protected from exposure to PM 2.5 particles at all costs because it will lead them to a continuous downward decline in health.
- Lung problems – Particles inhaled will bypass and go straight through the lung’s natural filter and damage it. Exposure to PM 2.5 can result in a long-term decline in lung function. This is one of the main organs that these particles can seriously damage. It doesn’t take a long time of exposure to cause serious damage – protective measures must be applied even before the air quality in your area gets worse.
- Airways/Respiratory System – Becoming exposed to PM 2.5 will cause minor irritation in your airways and cause an uncomfortable feeling in your throat and coughing. In worse cases, it can cause difficulty in breathing and it can worsen other respiratory symptoms that you might be experiencing already!
- Eyes and Nose Irritation – Probably the most minimal damage that PM 2.5 can cause, but it is nonetheless uncomfortable and inconvenient. Irritation can make the eyes and nose itchy, therefore, increasing the chance of getting infected with bacteria or viruses that are in your hands if you scratch your eyes and nose because of the irritation. Remember to never touch your eyes and nose without disinfecting your hands.
- Heart problems – People with heart problems have a higher chance of getting a nonfatal heart attack when exposed to PM 2.5. It can cause an irregular heartbeat in some, which is a sign of a weakening heart, which sometimes could also result in a deadly heart attack.
Apparently, PM 2.5 has been linked to many premature deaths. However, it doesn’t cause death in all types of people, it still depends on the health of the person and their pre-existing conditions whether the effect of the particles on their body would have long-term or short-term negative effects and whether the effects would be minimal or drastic. In cases where the damage is minimal, it can still lead to more severe complications in the future. If you’re in an area where the air quality index is usually at a moderate level or worse, you should definitely start protecting yourself from these particles by getting yourself a PM 2.5 filter.
What To Look For In a PM 2.5 Filter
If you are convinced that you need a PM 2.5 filter based on the information above and you want to get your hands on one right now, you need to consider a few things. Not all masks are created equal, and in the same way, not all filters are the same – there are some things that you must look out for when thinking of purchasing your own PM 2.5 filter.
- Water-proof! Avoid filters that are not waterproof or water-resistant. These non-waterproof filters are only effective until they get wet from breath or other liquid spills. You will have to keep replacing these filters because they’ll keep getting moist whenever you breathe through it. There is a lot of water-proof PM 2.5 filters out there, make sure to look out for that feature always so you won’t have to keep buying replacements and you can save yourself some money.
- Activated Carbon. Activated Carbon is usually used in filtration systems, it’s found to be effective in capturing and filtering out both liquids and gasses. Look out for filters that are made of Activated Carbon Fiber. Research says that mask filters that include a layer of activated carbon fiber are more effective in absorbing and filtering out harmful particles that are present in the air.
- Multi-layered. A common feature of most brands of PM 2.5 filters is that they have up to five layers of fabric. Don’t buy ones that are only single-layered, since there’s a risk that they might not be as effective and also you may end up having to keep replacing them as they are more prone to becoming moist and damaged.
- Backed by Legitimate Research. There are a lot of business and online shops out there that wants to capitalize on the demand for specific resources caused by the pandemic. Many people are selling illegitimate “substitutes” for effective and research-backed products. Make sure that the brand of the mask or filter that you are planning to buy has some actually research and testing behind its production. Make sure to always do your own research before panic-buying or bulk buying a product. Some illegitimate products might be cheaper, but less effective – so don’t settle for less. Be smart about what you buy.
“Health is wealth” is a commonly believed saying, and for good reason: it’s practical in the long run! If buying PM 2.5 filters is not in your budget yet, just think about all the head-ache and expenses you can save yourself from if you decide to protect yourself from these microscopic particles by getting your own filters. These particles may be small, but they can do much harm and should not be underestimated. The need for PM 2.5 filters also speaks to just how much we’ve changed the structure of our environment. With our cars and cigarettes, we are slowly poisoning our world and poisoning even our very selves.
Update – 12/21/2020
If your looking for a high quality PM2.5 filter face mask we have sourced one of the best established facemasks you can buy at this very moment that can be used in cities with bad air quality and protect you from airborne pathogens. The Select Shield Copper Face Mask with a changeable PM2.5 filter insert. Select Shield is widely recognized as a company that provides antimicrobial treatments to large and smaller businesses. They pioneered this new style of copper mask comes with a PM2.5 Filter pocket that can shield you from the particles of viruses and air pollution. This mask is currently only available at the moment in Canada but will soon be added to our inventory.