Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Pollution Masks in Kathmandu

Only 10 years ago, donning a face-mask in Kathmandu meant a few odd things—you were a doctor, an invalid or just fussy. But in that short decade, face-masks have gone from quirky accessories to vital appendages. Today, everyone—pedestrians, motorists and cyclists—are covering their faces against life threatening airborne particulates. Increasingly, living in Kathmandu has also meant constantly struggling to keep it out of your lungs. The deteriorating air quality inside the Valley, due to a host of reasons—ranging from vehicular emissions to industrial fumes and forest fires—have increased the health risk associated with regular exposure to dangerous levels of air pollution. In turn, it has also given seed to a thriving market for face-masks that promise to keep its users safe. But how effective are they? “Masks are no longer an option but has become compulsory in current day Kathmandu,” says Sailendra Dongol, who commutes the city on his bicycle. 

An active member of the Kathmandu Cycle City (KCC), a group of cycling enthusiasts aiming to make Kathmandu an environment-friendly cycle city by 2020, Dongol believes that cyclist are particularly susceptible to prolonged exposure to Kathmandu’s air. Earlier this year, having tried several anti-pollution masks available in the market, Dongol finally settled on the newly-launched Totobobo mask. Now six months and hundreds of grey filters later, he finally believes he has found a mask that protects him from harmful pollutants, particularly PM 2.5 and PM 10. The Singapore-manufactured Totobobo masks are made from silicon and rubber and are advertised as being ‘leak-proof’. They have two valves placed with interchangeable, activated charcoal filters in each valve, and can be changed depending on the need and desired level of protection. 

The face-mask with ‘N92’ designated filters means that they can block at least 92 percent of very small particles when properly fitted, while the N96 is effective in filtering 96 percent of the small fine particles and microbial agents that otherwise easily pass through the normal cloth and surgical mask commonly in use in the city. According to Nelson Labs, an independent testing centre in the US, “N95 respirators are used to filter contaminants such as dust, fumes, mists, as well as microbial agents including tuberculosis bacteria and flu virus. They are certified to filter greater than or equal to 95 percent of all challenged particles free of oil and greater than 0.3 microns in size, much smaller than the PM2.5 microns, the key pollutants that can directly enter inside the lungs.” The Nelson Labs has certified Totobobo with 99.85 percent effectiveness.

Read the full article @ Kathmandu Post

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