The Fenxing PM2.5 respirator mask comes with two activated carbon filter inserts for filtering PM2.5 particles. This product is CE certified in compliance with European Personal Protective Equipment standard EN149:2001+A1:2009.
Unlike disposable respirators, this environmentally friendly mask is reusable and machine washable. It is made of cotton, making it breathable, comfortable and skin-friendly. The straps are adjustable, to ensure a tight fit. The ventilation valve helps to minimise the accumulation of heat, moisture and CO2 by allowing air to flow out faster when you exhale. The PM2.5 filter insert can be removed and replaced after extended use (the mask comes with one spare filter).
PM2.5 refers to atmospheric particulate matter (PM) with a diameter of less than 2.5 microns, which is about 3% of the diameter of a human hair. Commonly written as PM2.5, particles in this category are so small that they can only be detected with an electron microscope. They are even smaller than their counterparts PM10, which are particles that are 10 micros or less, also called fine particles.
PM2.5 particles are believed to contribute to a number of health problems — from headaches and chronic fatigue to heart disease and cancer — when one is regularly exposed to them [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. These include, but not limited to, particles from office equipment such as printers, engine exhaust, factory emissions, organic compounds, cigarette smoke and lead dust.
Besides being potential irritants, fine particles may also introduce other smaller contaminants such as virus and bacteria that are hitching a free ride, triggering adverse reactions in those who are predisposed to certain diseases, have pre-existing ailments, or have weakened immune systems like the very young or old [6, 7, 8, 9].
In light of the current coronavirus pandemic, you may be wondering if masks can effectively filer out viruses such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19. Coronavirus virions are spherical particles with diameters of approximately 125 nm (0.125 microns). The smallest particles are 0.06 microns, and the largest are 0.14 microns . The below review of the literature shows that many masks, including high grade respirators such as these, basic surgical masks and even homemade masks, can be quite effective in protecting against tiny airborne virus particles.
David Hui, a respiratory medicine expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who studied the 2002 to 2003 outbreak of SARS extensively, says it’s “common sense” that wearing a mask would protect against infectious diseases like COVID-19.
He also says that the role of a face mask may be especially important in the epidemic due to the nature of the virus. Patients with COVID-19 often have mild or even no symptoms, and some researchers believe it can also be transmitted when patients are asymptomatic—meaning patients can be contagious and don’t know they’re sick.
Joseph Tsang, an infectious disease specialist who also worked as a consultant for Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority, says that even basic surgical masks can help reduce the risk of contact with droplets, through which the virus is transmitted. “Whenever you foresee to have someone within two to three meters (6.5 to 10 feet) apart, then it’s better to wear a mask,” Tsang adds.
Dr. Ivan Hung, professor of medicine and assistant dean of the University of Hong Kong said “if you look at the data in Hong Kong, wearing masks is probably the most important thing in terms of infection control. It not only brings down the cases of coronaviruses, it also brings down [cases of] influenza. In fact, this is now the influenza season and we hardly see any influenza cases. And that is because the mask not only protects against coronaviruses but also against the influenza viruses as well.” You can watch video footage of the interview here.
Michael Osterholm is another esteemed infectious-disease expert who strongly supports the use of N95 respirator masks for fighting this epidemic. Osterholm is an internationally recognised expert in infectious disease epidemiology, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) and author of the book "Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Deadly Germs.” He has served on the US Task Force on Biological Weapons, and the Task Force on Antibiotic Resistance. He is a frequent consultant to the World Health Organization, the NIH, the FDA, the Department of Defense, and the CDC.
In a recent interview, Osterholm said, contrary to what is commonly being advised, that “the whole issue of using your hands, touching your face that people all concentrate on, the data’s actually very weak that this kind of virus is going to be transmitted that way. I wouldn’t tell you to stop using hand sanitizer, but don’t think it’s going to have a big impact on this bug [...] People want to do something. They want to feel like they’re doing something, and so we tell them, “Wash your hands often to prevent this disease.” I feel like we’re not being really honest with the people.” Furthermore, he said the data suggests transmission “really is about just breathing air, and that’s a hard thing to stop.”
Osterholm went on to say that N95 respirators “are very effective” but “the problem is, we have a big shortage.” He explained that hospitals are down to just a couple days worth of these masks because the US does not maintain adequate stockpiles of anything. The excerpt from the interview footage can be watched here.
Review of the Literature
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh tested different common masks by running a diesel generator (to mimic car exhaust) and piping the exhaust through different masks . The researchers found that N95 filters were able to capture over 95% of particles down to 0.007 micron. That’s over 10 times smaller than the coronavirus. What might be surprising is that they also found common surgical masks (with no filters) were even able to capture 80% of the tiny particles!
Furthermore, in the wake of the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, Scientists from the University of Cambridge tested whether homemade masks made from cotton T-shirts would offer protection in a flu pandemic . They speculated that supplies of N95 masks might one day run out in a global pandemic scenario (their predictions have come true during the current coronavirus outbreak). The surgical masks were found to be 3 times more effective than the homemade masks, but the researchers concluded that homemade masks would be better than nothing.
In another study, Dutch researchers tested how homemade masks made from a tea cloth compared against surgical masks and respirator masks, for reducing exposure to respiratory infections . They used 3M FFP2 respirator masks. FFP2 is a European manufacturing standard which roughly equates to the US N95 manufacturing standard (KN95 is a Chinese standard). The researchers concluded that “any type of general face mask usage can decrease viral transmission,” but they found that surgical masks provided about twice as much protection as homemade masks. Furthermore, the respirator masks were found to provide adults with about 50 times as much protection as homemade masks, and 25 times as much protection as surgical masks.
Basic surgical masks or homemade masks made from tea cloth or T-Shirts probably do not offer significant protection against viruses. However, the weight of the evidence clearly shows that if you have no alternative, makeshift masks are still a lot better than having no mask at all.
On the other hand, the weight of the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that masks such as these particular respirators, which are designed specifically to filter out PM2.5 particles, can offer significant protection against airborne viruses such as coronaviruses or influenza viruses, provided that these masks are well fitted and handled hygienically.
In fact, as Dr. Ivan Hung, professor of medicine at the University of Hong Kong said, "wearing masks is probably the most important thing in terms of infection control."