Are N95 masks sufficient to block out wildfire smoke?

Wildfire smoke is an environmental disaster. It can cause serious health issues, mainly in people with certain medical conditions like asthma. Different parts of the world including Africa, Europe, and California are undergoing hazardous air quality due to wildfire smoke. There can be different adaptations or procedures that can make you survive the effects of a local wildfire or any other risky air occurrence. Some of such solutions to polluted air include full gas masks, bandanas, and universal N95 respirator masks, etc. 

However, people must seriously protect their lungs while living in extreme air occurrences at any cost. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) informs that besides causing irritation and inflammation within the lungs, wildfire smoke can also increase the risk of attaining Covid-19 illness. So people are advised to make the use of masks more and common. For example, N95 masks provide good protection against smoke and air pollution but not wholly.

There are different types of masks depending upon the quality and filtration levels:

Gas mask. It is a kind of respirator; however, it comprises a filtration medium to stop incoming particles and various gases also. These gas masks are usually having filtration cartridges that are supposed to be changed with time as they get saturated with contaminants. Air passes through filtration media by the user's inhalation. 

Surgical face masks. 

These are the type of masks comprising delicate pieces of paper or cloth stretched loosely crosswise the nose and mouth portion. They are used for ensuring that no infectious particles are passed between patients and medical staff. Rather than filtering dissolved particles in the air, they stop droplets of liquid from passing the mouth or nose during exhalation and inhalation. 

Power Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR). 

It works on a battery with a fan attached to it that pushes away the air through the filtration cartridges. It is more like a mask, so people with lung issues can have better breathing with these PAPR masks. It is a much healthier choice rather than a standard and normal gas mask for prevention to prevent excessive pressure on the lungs.

Respirators.  

It is a device that works by making a seal around your mouth as a shield to protect you from incoming particles through the air. The N95 masks are one of its types. These have special designs to filter small particles from entering the lungs through either nose or mouth. These mainly comprise domes of fibrous clothing stuff that stretches tightly over the mouth and nose portion.

N95

These are the most common and premium kind of respirator masks. N95 masks are widely available and are quite abundant. The “95” in it stands for the capability of the mask for filtrating of 95% of particles having a small size of even 0.3 microns. Furthermore, the “N” in it stands for the inability of these masks to be oil resistant. Masks are rated differently depending upon the percentage of their ability to filter air pollutants. Some masks might be ranked as N99 or even N100 for their different filtration quality.

Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA). 

It is a very costly and heavy device. An SCBA mainly provides oxygen as a basic function. It contains a weighty oxygen tank (approximately 31 pounds); therefore, it is not recommended for every person normally with no proper training regarding its usage. It is mostly used by experts working in fields like firefighting when they enter a place with a very low amount of oxygen. 

Benefits of N95 masks

N95 surgical masks offer supreme protection against viruses and most of the air particles. These are famous for being the topmost and effective health care tool. It filters very small particles efficiently including even viruses when these are exposed to the air. N95 masks’ demand has been increased globally since the outbreak of Covid-19 to fight the virus’ crisis. 

N95 masks cause filtration of approximately 95 percent of even the tiny particles present within the environment. However, these N95 surgical masks are testified to be restricting breathing in normal as it causes a decline in oxygen intake by almost 5 to 20 percent overall. Besides, during the filtration of all the particles, N95 masks affect normal breathing and cause suffocation.

N95 Respirator masks

N95 masks are the most trusted masks by the majority of people. These particulate respirators are highly demanded by many people who want to sustain the good condition of their lungs even in severe air conditions such as wildfire smoke. It is mainly essential to choose masks with the proper rating and reviews. However, there are some masks with R ranks, meaning they are resisted to oil. While others may be ranked as P for they are oil proofs. The N95 mask is the greatest opportunity for most of the people as masks with more oil-resistance and increased ratings also causes difficulty in breathing.

Other masks

Gas masks are comparatively costlier. These require a separate filtration cartridge. People having extreme lungs condition such as asthma and chemical sensitivities are advised to use a gas mask. It ensures better breathing by providing cleaner air for the lungs.

It is still probable that some non-N95 masks may prove to operate more efficiently. Some have designs that can filter out more particles or viruses than others. Some are more efficient than others. However, it must be argued that N95 masks are way more convenient and practical to use than many other masks.

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