Protecting Our Lungs With Air Masks
Posted by Matt Silver on
While our lungs are properly equipped to deal with naturally occurring pollutants present in the ambient air, such as dust, dirt, small sediments and gases, they are virtually defenseless against environmental disasters influenced by civilization. Our lungs are equipped with several tools to control and regulate exposure to contaminants; these include nasal hair, airways lined with mucous, and the occasional cough and sneeze.
These are mechanisms through which the body mitigates significant damage to our respiratory system. But when forced to face the brunt of man-made pollution, these mechanisms fall short. The bottom line is that modern industrial processes release substances that we have little or no control over in the way of defense systems.
Of note is small particulate matter that has a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, which also known as PM 2.5. It is estimated that we breathe in at least 11,000 liters of air in any given day. But when our bodies begin to work hard, it results in an uptake of air volume in our lungs. Every liter of air could contain substances that can damage the lung’s structures and directly enter into our bloodstream. From there, these foreign substances can damage other areas of our body. Symptoms of deadly toxins and gases entering the bloodstream include irritation and difficulty in breathing and coughing.
The time it takes for these symptoms to manifest can be both immediate and long term. As an example, a small amount of ammonia will cause an immediate response by the body, but exposure to asbestos will take years for adverse health outcomes to appear.
The ambient air contains two main types of contaminants, namely particulate matter and gases.
Particulate matter originates from a wide range of materials and varies considerably in size. Some are so minute that they will become part of the air and stay suspended for a long period of time. Others will gradually settle down as they make their way to the floor to be mopped and picked away. Our lungs have protective mechanisms that filter out these particles, but PM 2.5 particulates easily enter into our nasal passage and require additional protection.
Gases and vapors have a more subtle approach to bodily invasion because our bodies are unable to immediately identify them until after they’ve made their way into our bloodstream. Our lungs are designed in such a way that it extracts oxygen from air, but there is a lack of an efficient filtration system that prevents gases and vapors from entering.
This exposes the body to several health effects such as a sore throat, coughing, headaches and fever. Long-term damage that is harder to treat includes lung damage, heart disease, cancer and even infertility. All such exposure requires access to protective equipment that conforms to industry requirements of quality and safety. One of the most respected bodies of occupational safety and health is NEBOSH. It identifies equipment that people need to wear in order to protect themselves from contaminants in both the workplace and regular environments.
Since each workplace and residence will have its own set of health hazards, it is not possible to shoehorn a one-size-fits-all health strategy that could be implemented everywhere. Most health experts will agree that basic precautions should be taken; this includes wearing protective gloves and N99 air masks.
A well-fitted air mask will protect the user from 99% of pollutants in the air and reduce exposure to substances that could result in allergies and disease.
Getting the Right Fit and the Importance of N99 Air Masks
It is important for air masks to fit the user’s facial features and take into account differences such as facial hair, strenuous makeup, facial contours and head. Users with large moustaches and beards might not be able to create effective seals with their respirators and will inhale air that contains contaminated air.
To this end, manufacturers produce different sizes of their air masks. Certain companies also produce masks for small children as young as 8 years old.
Some N99 masks go one step further by making use of an additional filter to trap toxic gases such as sulfur dioxide. A highly effective filter that is currently trending is activated carbon. These are small pieces of carbon in granular form, treated to be extremely porous. This gives them strong adsorbing properties that help in removing contaminants from the ambient air.
Should People Use Air Masks In Everyday Life?
Just because users have left their work environments doesn’t mean they are no longer exposed to air pollution. One of the telltale signs of any modern metropolitan suburb is unusually high amounts of air pollutants. It is just as important to wear N99 air masks in everyday life as it is in hazardous work environments.
To learn more about N99 air masks and how you could get them, visit Debrief Me to find an extensive catalog of air masks for all types of users and occasions.