HAZE SURVIVAL GUIDE - MASKS

Stick to tested N95

The 3M 9211 mask, which has a one-way valve and is selling at $3.50 each, was introduced last month.
The 3M 9211 mask, which has a one-way valve and is selling at $3.50 each, was introduced last month.PHOTO: 3M SINGAPORE

From air purifiers and beauty products to food, drink and places to go, Life finds out how you can combat the haze

Newfangled masks - some with fancy colours, shapes and designs - and other products that claim to help in the haze have come onto the market.

But experts advise that it is best to stick to masks and products which have been tested and endorsed by appropriate environmental or health organisations.

The Government's haze microsite (www.haze.gov.sg) identifies two categories of masks designed to reduce the exposure to airborne contaminants such as particles and gases.

 
 
 
 

The first is the N95 mask, which is certified to have 95 per cent filter efficiency by the United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

These masks are available at major pharmacies and supermarkets such as Unity, Watsons, Cold Storage, FairPrice and Giant.

They come in different brands, colours, shapes and sizes. For example, a box of 20 N95 masks is selling for $38 at Sheng Siong supermarkets.

The second type is the EN-149 mask, which meets a type of European standard for respiratory masks. These can filter 80 to 99 per cent of airborne dust particles and can be bought through the websites of their distributors.

Masks with new features, such as valves to provide easy exhalation, have emerged.

For example, the AIR+ Smart Mask, a certified N95 mask launched in March and selling at $7.20 for a box of three, has a valve for improved air flow.

A small micro ventilator, which costs $29.90, can be attached to the mask to draw out heat, moisture and carbon dioxide, thereby reducing temperatures in the mask by up to 4 deg C.

The 3M 9211 mask, which has a one-way valve and is selling at $3.50 each, was introduced last month.

Mr Edwin Tan, 39, a safety officer in the construction industry who has been using the 3M 9211 mask for the last three weeks, says: "When I wear a mask with no valve, it takes only a few minutes to feel uncomfortable because the heat and moisture accumulate inside the mask.

"When I use a mask with a valve, the exhaled air can leave the mask more easily and it takes twice as long before I feel uncomfortable."

Yet another mask - the Vogmask - which hit the market last year, comes in more than 12 designs.

The reusable mask, which has N95 certification, comes in different prints and features a carbon filter and exhale valve. It is selling at $39 each.

Experts advise that when choosing masks, it is best to stick to tested N95 masks.

Dr Ong Kian Chung, 52, a respiratory medicine specialist at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, says: "The standard N95 mask is sufficient for protection against the haze."

Dr Erik Velasco, 41, a research scientist from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, says: "If a consumer wants to buy other types of masks, I would recommend investigating if such masks have been tested and endorsed by the health authorities."

Besides masks, other creative products in the market also claim to be able to help beat the haze.

A new filter, for example, meant to be wrapped behind the back of a fan, claims to turn fans into air purifiers.

One "air purifier" also claims to use specialised plants to help purify the air of dust and particulates.

Experts were sceptical about such products. Dr Ong says: "I'm not convinced. The onus should be on the manufacturers to prove their claims."

Benson Ang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 04, 2015, with the headline 'Stick to tested N95 Masks'. Print Edition | Subscribe