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China Earth

Face Masks Provide Chinese With False Hope Against Pollution 156

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Emily Sohn reports at Discovery Magazine that high levels of air pollution in Beijing, where levels of pollution have spiked above 750 micrograms per cubic meter, have caused a run on face masks as people look for ways to protect themselves from the smog. The capital is on its sixth day of an 'orange' smog alert — the second-highest on the scale — with the air tasting gritty and visibility down to a few hundred meters. But experts say that under the hazards they're facing, the masks are unlikely to help much. In fact, images of masked citizens navigating the streets of Beijing highlight the false confidence that people put in face masks in all sorts of situations, including flu outbreaks and operating rooms. For a step up in protection, consumers can buy a category of mask known technically as N95 respirators, which are generally available at hardware stores. N95 facemasks are often used in industrial workplace situations to protect against things like lead dust and welding fumes, and they are certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to trap 95 percent of particles sent through them in testing situations. But in order to work N95 respirators need to be professionally fitted to each person's individual face (PDF) to make sure there is a tight seal with no leaks. If they truly fit right, they are uncomfortable to wear."
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Face Masks Provide Chinese With False Hope Against Pollution

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  • by Rob Simpson ( 533360 ) * on Saturday March 01, 2014 @07:19PM (#46378351)
    The use of face masks in flu outbreaks is to prevent the spread of droplets from the person with the flu. (Note that it's possible to shed and spread influenza before you realize that you're infected.) But a face mask is worthless at protected you from getting the flu if you touch near your eyes after touching an infected surface. Hand washing and being conscious about touching your face is more important.
  • pollution (Score:5, Informative)

    by MrL0G1C ( 867445 ) on Saturday March 01, 2014 @07:21PM (#46378371) Journal

    Latest data from the Commons Environment Audit Committee warns that up to 50,000 people each year are meeting a premature death in the UK thanks to air pollution, with an annual health care bill of up to £20.2 billion. The biggest culprit? Transport, responsible for 70 percent of pollution in towns and cities.

    That's the UK, the pollution in China is worse by orders of magnitude, literally millions of people a year will be dying there from lung diseases.

    People don't take traffic pollution seriously because they can't see it, even though the number of deaths caused dwarfs vehicle accident deaths.

  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Saturday March 01, 2014 @07:27PM (#46378395)
    When I was working near asbestos nobody told me that the masks had to be "professionally fitted" so I doubt the journalist knows more than they googled about the topic.
    However they certainly are uncomfortable especially with safety goggles pushing them down on your nose.
  • by NimbleSquirrel ( 587564 ) on Saturday March 01, 2014 @07:48PM (#46378469)

    As someone who has worked in an industrial environment, and who has had to wear respirators and other PPE, I can say that N95 respirators do not need to be 'professionally fitted'. They do need to fit just right, but the users themselves can do that. Yes, they can be uncomfortable if you've never worn a mask before, but once you are used to them you can wear them all day (as many many workers do everyday).

    While the author focusses on fitting, he completely ignores the other issue with N95 masks: there are many different types that are designed to filter different things. There are different masks for dusts and particles, nuisance odours, welding fumes, acid gasses, organic vapors and biologicals. The author ignores that people will need to know what type of respirator they need as buying the wrong type will make it far less effective. Not all N95 respirators are the same. For a sutiation like this, a dust and particle filter with nuisance level acid gas (NOx, SO2, etc) would be better, but unlikely to be found at many hardware stores.

    What people don't seem to realise is that the gasses that make up smog (CO, NOx, SO2, ozone, organic compounds) can be just as damaging, if not more, than the dust and particulates. Even N95 masks only filter out nuisance levels of these.

  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Saturday March 01, 2014 @08:27PM (#46378643) Homepage

    No, it's not rocket science, but many people can't figure out how to size the mask by themselves. The typical error is to get one that is too large. You also can't use them if you have a beard so you have to use another type of mask (in the US where we have OSHA running around). At my hospital, we have one nurse who is the mask fitter. She went to some classes and has to do an occasional webinar but it's not like she has a degree in 'maskology'.

  • by snookiex ( 1814614 ) on Saturday March 01, 2014 @08:33PM (#46378663) Homepage

    In your next joke, please consider using better quality products []. ;)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 01, 2014 @09:22PM (#46378875)

    There are just over a billion cars on the planet. The USGS puts known lithium reserves at 13 million tonnes. That equates to 13 kg for every car on the planet. There's about 8-9 kg of lithium in the largest battery pack (85 kWh) for the Model S.

    As with any other resource, if we managed to use up 70% of the known reserves, we'd start looking for more.

    And a significant proportion of the world's lithium supply doesn't even come from those reserves, but from seawater (evaporated in salt lakes). The world's oceans contain ~230 billion tonnes of lithium, which is roughly 18000 times the "known reserves" figure.

  • by jafac ( 1449 ) on Sunday March 02, 2014 @01:55AM (#46379707) Homepage

    yeah - if it takes effort to draw-in breath, then you have a proper seal. (used to wear one spray painting).

  • Re:Not possible (Score:5, Informative)

    by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Sunday March 02, 2014 @02:40AM (#46379839) Homepage

    The smog in Bejing is mostly due to coal fires for heating and automobile traffic, not factories.

Receiving a million dollars tax free will make you feel better than being flat broke and having a stomach ache. -- Dolph Sharp, "I'm O.K., You're Not So Hot"