The pollution level in Delhi is alarmingly high. The last 2 days have seen New Delhi engulfed in smog causing irritation to the eyes and the throat. It is an issue of debate on what is causing this pollution and what can be done to stop it. This debate has unfortunately taken a political and religious turn and hence is likely to continue for decades to come.
While this debate goes on we need to make sure that we keep ourselves safe from this smoke. I have recently seen people holding handkerchiefs, woolen cloths and surgical masks against their faces to save themselves. It might be surprising to hear this but they are not going to contribute majorly to protecting you from the particulate matter. I will tell you point by point why they are bad tools to use and why you should use a N95 mask wherever you can find one.
Handkerchiefs are mostly made of cotton. Before we get into that we need to know what is causing the respiratory distress to us. The blame of this goes mainly to 2 particulates, PM2.5 and PM10. Both of which are 2.5 micrometers and 10 micrometers in size respectively, PM2.5 being the more harmful one.
A cotton cloth has a pore size of nearly 100-150 micrometers in size which may become 20 micrometers on folding 8 times. This means that a handkerchief pore is about 40 times larger than it needs to be to protect you from these particulates.
- Woolen Cloths
Woolens have the same case as cotton and provide no protection at all. The only thing they can help with is that they might have a placebo effect on you, which might decrease the realization of effects but it would not decrease the actual effects it has.
- Surgical Masks.
Surgical masks are most commonly seen used as a deterrent to pollution but unfortunately they will only work for PM10 particles and not the harmful and hazardous PM2.5 . It would help with PM10 on the condition that it is worn very tightly to your face.
How N95 masks help?
N95 masks have a pore size of 0.3 micrometers. They are capable of stopping all small particles including viruses and PM2.5. They have very strict guidelines on how to be worn and even facial hair might end decreasing their efficiency but they are our best bet at the moment.
If you know someone living in New Delhi, tell them about this and ensure that they buy a N95 mask. It might seem like the smog will pass away in a few days but that does not mean that the pollution levels will decrease as well. Take care of those around you and try to inform them.
Stay safe and stay healthy.