Pollution season is around the corner in India and with it comes the problem of diseases. October to January is considered the 4 worst months for air quality in India. According to some reports that I have read the Delhi air quality index on some days during the month deteriorates to 500+ where the safe levels are generally considered below 80.
These diseases have various health consequences on the people. Poor air quality is a cause of reduced lung capacity, headaches, sore throats, coughs, fatigue, lung cancer, and early death. According to a report 2.2 million children in Delhi have irreversible lung damage due to the poor quality of the air. In addition, research shows that pollution can lower children's immune system and increase the risks of cancer, epilepsy, diabetes and even adult-onset diseases like multiple sclerosis
In times of crises like these a good respirator goes a long way in protecting the health of the users. These respirators are designed to protect the user against harmful PM2.5 sized particles that are most harmful to the human lung. In fact respirators are so efficient that they even filter out particles as low as of size 0.3 micron. Respirators are designed with special fabrics that help in filtration of air. But how to identify a good respirator is of utmost importance as some masks or respirators give the illusion of safety but are not designed to function against these harmful particles.
Media and print journalism have focused on one particular type of respirator that is NIOSH approved N95 respirator. In fact the name N95 has become synonyms with respirators in India as people walk into a shop and ask “N95 mask dena”. But why has this particular respirator attained such a status whereas there a host of equally comparable and certified respirators like the CE certified or even our very own ISI certified respirator. This can be traced back to the SARS outbreak in Asia where the WHO was issuing directives to deal with the epidemic. Only the NIOSH N95 was recommended by the WHO to deal with the outbreak. This caused an acute shortage of these respirators and there was panic due to unavailability. Only when the WHO was made aware of this, other comparable models like the FFP2 & FFP3 range of respirators certified by the European body were recommended.
But the trend has persisted and the Indian market has traditionally accepted N95 respirator as the solution. This has unfortunately given rise to counterfeit and spurious products being sold in the market. A respirator that has N95 written besides it is not enough to certify its validity. It is made with cheap fabric and duplicate parts to dupe the consumer. Manufacturers of respirators have also given in to the demand and have started printing N95 mask on the respirator packs to authenticate their products. This is wrong and these fraud products are cheating their customers.