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Occup Environ Med. 2018 Jun;75(6):446-452. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2017-104765. Epub 2018 Apr 9.

Effectiveness of face masks used to protect Beijing residents against particulate air pollution.

Author information

1
Institute of Occupational Medicine, Centre for Human Exposure Science, Edinburgh, UK.
2
Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK.
3
School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.
4
Department of Earth Sciences, Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience, Durham University, Durham, UK.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

Many residents in Beijing use disposable face masks in an attempt to protect their health from high particulate matter (PM) concentrations. Retail masks may be certified to local or international standards, but their real-life performance may not confer the exposure reduction potential that is marketed. This study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of a range of face masks that are commercially available in China.

METHODS:

Nine masks claiming protection against fine PM (PM2.5) were purchased from consumer outlets in Beijing. The masks' filtration efficiency was tested by drawing airborne diesel exhaust through a section of the material and measuring the PM2.5 and black carbon (BC) concentrations upstream and downstream of the filtering medium. Four masks were selected for testing on volunteers. Volunteers were exposed to diesel exhaust inside an experimental chamber while performing sedentary tasks and active tasks. BC concentrations were continuously monitored inside and outside the mask.

RESULTS:

The mean per cent penetration for each mask material ranged from 0.26% to 29%, depending on the flow rate and mask material. In the volunteer tests, the average total inward leakage (TIL) of BC ranged from 3% to 68% in the sedentary tests and from 7% to 66% in the active tests. Only one mask type tested showed an average TIL of less than 10%, under both test conditions.

CONCLUSIONS:

Many commercially available face masks may not provide adequate protection, primarily due to poor facial fit. Our results indicate that further attention should be given to mask design and providing evidence-based guidance to consumers.

KEYWORDS:

air pollution; diesel fumes; exposure assessment; pm10-pm2.5-ultrafine; ppe

PMID:
29632130
PMCID:
PMC5969371
DOI:
10.1136/oemed-2017-104765
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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