Wildfires pose a serious threat to the general population in many regions of the world. There are over 72 thousand communities that are at risk from wildfires in America alone. And, according to statistics, smoke appears to be even deadlier than the fire itself. Want to make sure that you and your family are safe during natural disasters? Then, keep reading to learn how to find the best mask for wildfire smoke protection.
What is a Mask for Wildfire Smoke?
To get the most reliable protection against hazardous pollutants and smoke, you must get a reliable respirator. But what is the best mask for smoke protection?
First, it’s important to note that it’s essential to have an anti-smoke facepiece if you live near forests. And it’s no laughing matter.
According to statistics from the US Fire Administration, over 3,600 people died in 2017 alone from fire-related hazards. Furthermore, the majority of deaths (and injuries) weren’t caused by the fire itself. It’s the inhalation of smoke and toxic fumes that you should fear the most.
However, it’s possible to ward off dangerous particles by wearing a smoke mask. What’s the best mask for wildfire smoke?
To get maximal protection, you should look for respirators that received certification from The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The most popular anti-pollution masks that can protect against exhaust and smoke are:
- N95, N99, and N100 respirators. These disposable and reusable masks can ward off over 95% of airborne pollutants that are 0.3 microns in diameter.
- R and P series of NIOSH-approved respirators (R95-R100, P95-P100). Equipment like that provides the same level of filtering efficiency as the N series. Plus, it is also practical against oil-based aerosols.
- Other masks with over 95% of filtering efficiency (FFP2/P2 and KN95 masks). Even without certification by US-based organizations, this equipment can help you breathe safely during smoke exposure.
Why Do You Need a Mask Against Smoke?
As we already mentioned, in most cases, people suffer not from the fire itself. Instead, they get injured from the exposure to smoke and toxic fumes caused the wildfire.
A smoke mask that filters at least 95% of airborne particles can save your respiratory system from small carbon particles, as well as block odorless gasses and tar droplets.
It’s essential to stay as far away from the source of the smoke as you can. Best course of action? That would be to get indoors quick. However, we can’t say that you’ll be completely safe even if you remain inside your house ( especially so if you live close to the source of the wildfire).
That’s why it’s best to wear a proper anti-smoke mask even indoors to reduce exposure to harmful particles to a minimum.
Who is at Risk from Wildfire Smoke?
Wildfire is lethal not only for people who live in close proximity to forests. The smoke can travel many miles beyond, putting hundreds of unsuspecting citizens at risk.
According to the CDC, wildfire smoke is especially dangerous for:
- people with asthma and COPD
- people suffering from heart diseases
- pregnant women
What Mask Should You Use for Bushfire Smoke?
You must understand that not every respirator out there can protect you against wildfire. Want to get the best mask for wildfire smoke? Then, keep reading.
How to choose the best mask for wildfire smoke
How to identify if your facepiece is viable against dangerous particles? It’s essential to pay attention to the following:
- Make sure that the respirator has certification by NIOSH. Identifying these mask is easy. Just look for a proper label on the product itself or on the box (N95, R95, P100). KN or FFP2/P2 face masks are also viable (we still recommend sticking to masks that received the approval of governmental institutions).
- Stick to respiratory protection equipment with at least two straps. It provides the best face seal.
- Wear the mask properly (it should cover the face from the nose to the tip of the chin). Remember that facial hair decreases the effectiveness of any facepiece because it breaks the seal.
Do paper masks help against smoke?
Paper dust masks or surgical respirators won’t be effective against smoke. Why? They usually don’t provide sufficient filtering efficiency that makes them viable against carbon particles and tar. Paper facepieces also tend to have only one strap, which simply won’t offer good enough seal.
Additionally, you should avoid bandanas or wet towels if you want adequate protection. These facepieces are very porous and can block only larger particles. Therefore, these temporary measures can help you breathe while you run away from the source of the hazard. However, they won’t save you from the lung damage if you are going to expose yourself to smoke for an extended time.
Are smoke masks useful against other types of airborne pollution (viruses, flu, germs)?
To make it short: yes. Respirators with over 95% of filtering efficiency are useful against all sorts of pollution found in the air. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends N95 and other NIOSH-certified equipment as a practical solution against airborne viruses like coronavirus. And that’s not all!
In addition to smoke and viruses, certified respiratory protection equipment is more than capable of safeguarding the wearer against:
- dust (toxic and non-toxic)
- machine exhaust
- germs, flu, and bacteria
- chemical pollution
- oil-based aerosols
However, the level of protection and overall effectiveness of the mask depends on many factors. That includes the type of respiratory protection, the product manufacturer, as well as how you wear your mask.
How Should You Wear a Smoke Mask?
As we mentioned numerous times, it’s crucial to wear your respiratory protection equipment correctly. That way, you can maximize its protective qualities.
What should you do to make sure your lungs are safe from dangerous particulates? Let’s go through the critical points.
- Pick a fitting face mask. Ensure no gaps between the respirator and your face are present. To achieve the best seal, it’s best to get rid of the facial hair.
- Don’t wear the facepiece for too long. Do you have a disposable mask? Then, you need to discard it when it starts to feel damp or hard to breathe through. What about reusable respirators?
- Dedicate enough time to maintenance. You should take proper care of your mask if you want it to remain effective against bushfire smoke. If the facewear is washable – clean with soap and water after each use. The filter could be carefully wiped with a soft cloth. However, you should replace the filter after a couple of weeks (or if it has lost its color).
- Consult a doctor beforehand. Even the best mask for wildfire smoke won’t help if you have a heart condition or lung problems. That’s why we strongly recommend consulting the doctor before picking a face mask.
As you can see, smoke poses an even more significant threat than the fire itself. And it doesn’t affect only those who live near forests. Wildfire smoke can spread for dozens of miles beyond, putting many communities in danger.
However, proper respiratory protection equipment can effectively minimize risks to your health. We hope that our guide gave you an idea about the best mask for wildfire smoke.
Do you have anything to add? Let us know in the comment section!