What you need to know about wearing a P2 face mask for smoke protection
P2 masks are disposable and they don't work if you have a beard.
Australia is experiencing record-setting highs on the Air Quality Index as people across the country have been contending with bushfires for weeks. This has left many people wondering how they can protect themselves and their loved ones from the harmful effects of smoke.
Anti-pollution masks are nothing new and with the recent reduction in air quality, they're more popular than ever, but not all face masks are effective.
What is a P2 mask and what does it do?
Only P2 rated masks can filter out PM2.5 particles, the microscopic particles produced by bushfire smoke.
A P2 mask, also known as an N95 mask, is a respirator designed to remove fine particles from the air. These masks are typically used on building sites, in hospitals and by firefighters. They can filter out the harmful particles in smoke, but are only effective if there's an air-tight seal around the face.
P2 masks are disposable and only work for a certain period of time, usually around 8 to 10 hours. If you keep wearing the mask after the recommended time, the filter will be less effective or not effective at all.
You can buy P2 masks in multi-packs or get masks with replaceable filters.
How to fit a P2 mask properly
According to the New South Wales government, there are several steps for fitting a P2 mask correctly.
- Remove obstructions. Take off anything that will obstruct the mask, including glasses and hats and tie up any loose hair.
- Shave your beard. If you have a beard, you'll have to shave so that the mask can seal to your face.
- Put it on. Place the mask on your face with the nose piece at the top.
- Place the straps. Pull the headbands over your head and place one strap at the back of your head and the other on the base of your neck.
- Pinch the nose. Push in the noseband to seal the mask along the bridge of the nose and press the mask to seal across your cheeks.
- Check the fit. When you inhale and exhale, the mask should inflate and deflate slightly as you breathe. If this isn't happening, there is air leaking out of the mask. Try to reposition the mask and if that doesn't work, try another size or style.
Other ways to improve air quality
If you don't want to have to shave your beard to wear a P2 mask or you're looking for other ways to help improve the air quality at home, an air purifier is worth considering.
An air purifier can remove more than 99% of the PM2.5 particles in the air, but only if it has a working HEPA filter. Check out our air purifier buying guide for more information on how to choose an effective air purifier.
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