The air quality index (AQI) numbers don’t make for pretty reading. Most cities in India, particularly Delhi, are seeing a sudden spike in pollution, and while it may vary because of factors such as wind speeds, the pollutants are very much there and you are breathing them in. One of the reasons is that the stubble burning in various parts of north India is causing the smog to engulf large parts of the region. Then there is industrial emissions, road dust, garbage burning and more. Whatever the reasons may be, you are breathing extremely toxic air. It is said that humans breathe in about 8 litres of air every day. Now imagine 8 litres of pure toxic air that is laden with smoke, particulate matter and all sorts of pollutants that you cannot see. While you may have air purifiers running at home and therefore clean air for at least some part of the day, it is important too also wear masks every time you step out of home or office.
Buy buying an anti-pollution mask isn’t easy though. There are a variety of options from a number of brands, all claiming to be the best at what they do. But not all may be equally effective in filtering out the bad air before you breathe it. We did some research and testing to pick out what we feel are some of the better anti-pollution masks that you can buy right now. The important ingredients are the high-quality filters, a comfortable fit and valves if necessary, for outdoor activity routine. A high-quality mask with a good fit can be useful in keeping pollutants, fumes, PM2.5, PM10 and other airborne viruses, away from your throat and lungs.
Around Rs2,000 onwards; NirvanaBeing.com
These masks, available in micro-fibre and organic cotton variants, offer multiple layers of filtration before you breathe in the air. Apart from the N99 filter, there is also the layer in which the coconut shell derived carbon, along with acrylic, is bonded to polyester. You will get this in small, medium and large sizes as well, depending on which fits best for your facial structure. This is designed to filter particles as small as 0.3-microns and are also available as single valve or dual valve options. Apart from the standard black colour option, you also get more dynamic designs and rather exciting colour combinations such as Lightning, Chakra, Java, Vector Havoc and Geometry.
Xiaomi Mi AirPOP Anti-Pollution Mask
Around Rs 249 (pack of two); Mi.com
Xiaomi is one versatile company. It makes fantastic phones at very interesting price points. Completely shook the TV market with brilliant TVs at never-seen-before prices. And now the company wants to save is from the atrocious pollution that descends on our cities come winter. The Mi AirPOP Anti-Pollution Mask can block out particles as small as 0.3-micron and has the PM2.5 filtration efficiency of 99.97 percent. This has a 4-layer filtration process in place between the air that you are about to breathe and your nose. There is a vortex breathing valve that will quickly release the warm air and vapour that could build up in a mask from time to time. Xiaomi says that this pack of two masks should last you a month.
Atlanta Healthcare Cambridge Admiral N99
Rs2,199 onwards; Atlantahealthcare.in
These masks, developed by the UK based Cambridge Mask Co., are available in three variants—with no valve (best for regular activity outdoors), with one valve (for light exercises outdoors) and two valves (for intensive exercises or activity outdoors). For standard daily use, a no-valve option should suffice. The single- and dual-valve options help reduce moisture build-up inside the mask during intensive activity. These masks use military-grade filtration technology and protect you from dust, fuel-based contaminants, particulate matter, infectious pathogens, virus, bacteria, mold and spores as well as pollen. The activated carbon filter layer is developed by the UK’s Ministry of Defense and is designed to adsorb gaseous molecules. Available in multiple colours and patterns, and small, medium, large and XL sizes.
Prana Air Motion Pollution mask
Around Rs2,990; PranaAir.com
This mask has an extremely high-tech quotient which should do an even more robust job of protecting you from the poor-quality outdoor air. This has the N95 particulate matter filtering capability. There is a 6-layer filtration system in place which includes a pre-filter, a white filter, a HEPA filter and an activated carbon filter. You may not realise this at first, but the Prana Air Motion Pollution mask has a fan built-in, with three speeds—lowest being ideal for regular walking and the highest ideal for running, jogging or your fitness routine. You need to charge the 600mAh battery inside the mask, and when you switch it on and wear it, this pretty much does the breathing for you. There is also a smartly designed micro ventilator to remove the carbon dioxide build-up inside the mask when you wear it. The proverbial cherry on the cake is that this comes in dark grey, white and pink colour options—more chances that it will match your wardrobe.
AirOK N99 Mask
Around Rs 250
The AirOK masks are N99 rated, and have a five-layer air filtration process, including a dual HEPA layer. These will capture PM2.5 particles, smoke, dust, bacteria and pollen. The AirOK masks have a single valve too, which prevents build-up of heat as well as moisture inside the mask. These cotton masks are also water resistant and quite comfortable to wear even for long stretches of time without any discomfort.
Around Rs3,000 onwards; NirvanaBeing.com
This is a mask that clearly means business, something you’ll know as soon as you look at it. This has a hard shell on the outside, and is available in kids, medium and large sizes. The shield on the outside is shatter-proof. It is perhaps easy to imagine this mask as being heavy and perhaps being uncomfortable to wear when you see it first—but that is absolutely not the case and the idMASK2 is extremely comfortable to wear. Behind this robust shield sits an Electrostatic Cloud filter (this mask the N90 filtration capabilities) that can capture particles as small as 0.3 micron. You can also buy the replacement filters priced at Rs1,700 onwards for a 4 or 5 filter pack and even replace the outer shield—this will cost Rs1,200.
Around Rs395 for pack of 10; Amazon.in
These are KN95 rated masks and are efficient if you are present in areas where dust is a big problem, along with airborne viruses and microorganisms. These masks are very light to wear as they are made of paper, and after some days of use, need to be disposed. There is a 3-layer filtration process, and this is ideal for someone who might need protection against the dust and fumes for non-strenuous activity outdoors—there are no valves like some of the higher end masks, which work better while running or jogging. Honeywell sells these in the icy blue and white colour options.