Let’s get right to it. Hong Kong’s air quality is horrible and it’s impacting our health in dramatic ways. The toxic haze that clouds our city has often been blamed on China’s pollution drifting over the border, but some of the primary reasons for the problem are:
- Shipping (Hong Kong’s status as a global shipping hub)
- Electricity generation
- Dense traffic and frequent roadside construction
- Aviation (Hong Kong International Airport)
- Other non-combustable sources of pollution, like solvents and chemicals
Regardless of the source, it’s hitting our lungs every time we inhale. And given the fact that most of us live in dense housing areas, and spend much of our time walking (versus driving), we’re chronically exposed to these noxious particles.
What Exactly Are We Breathing In?
Particulate matter in the range of PM10 and PM2.5, such as sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, and other pollutants like benzene from roadside traffic.
These are particles of solid and liquid matter so small they can remain suspended in the air. They are widely considered to be the most dangerous of the air pollutants, and the World Health Organisation considers them a Group 1 carcinogen: an agent proven to cause cancer in humans.SCMP | David Vetter | 2018
The numbers refer to their size in micrometres (millionths of a metre): PM10 are particles smaller than 10 micrometres in diameter; PM2.5 depict particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres. Particulates can come from a huge range of sources, from pollen and wildfires to power plants and car engines. The smaller PM2.5 particles are considered to be even more harmful than PM10 particles, as they can penetrate further into the lungs and more easily enter the bloodstream.
How Does It Impact Our Health?
Chronic exposure to ambient air pollution has been strongly linked to cancer (not just lung cancer), heart disease, and many forms of pulmonary disease. Studies show that maternal exposure to air pollution can cause birth defects, and diabetes and neurological development in children. The bottom line is that pollution is inflammatory, and inflammation is the root of many of our modern chronic disease states.
What Can We Do About It?
It’s critical that we ensure that the air we do have control over is clean. Indoor air quality can be dramatically improved with a professional, high quality air purifier. I personally recommend IQ Air, an industry standard, used in hospital settings around the world.
You can also improve your indoor air quality with air purifying plants, like the virtually non-killable (trust me, I’ve tried!) snake plant, also called the Sansevieria or “Mother-in-Law’s Tongue”. We have eight snake plants in our flat, purchased from the Hong Kong Flower Market for $80 HKD each. These are ideal for indoor spaces because they’re able to soak up and remove toxins such as formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, and nitrogen oxides (per studies conducted by NASA).
So, I can rest easy at home knowing I’m breathing in clean air, but every day as I walk to work, I’m hit with waves of street pollution as double decker buses whiz by me.
Vogmask | True Protection Against Ambient Air Pollution
After heavily researching anti-pollution masks, I settled on the Vogmask. The flimsy, paper masks you can purchase at 7-11 to help prevent the spread of germs will do nothing to protect you against small particulate matter, so it’s imperative you have a mask that’s considered N95 or N99. Plus, because I was planning on wearing this daily to and from work, style and durability mattered as well.
Vogmask really stood out, starting with their technical specs:
Vogmask is used for protection from airborn particles such as PM0.3, PM2.5, PM10, dust, allergens, post combustion particles, germs, shavings, biologics, odors, scents, mold, mold spores, particles in wildfire smoke, volcanic particulate pollution, and other airborne contaminants.Vogmask
Have I Noticed a Difference?
After two weeks of dedicated usage, from the moment I leave my flat and head down to the street, I am impressed with my Vogmask. I consider myself the canary in the coal mine, extra sensitive to smells and pollutants (often getting a stuffy nose, scratchy throat, or headache if outside too long on polluted days).
My Vogmask (a micro-fiber, single valve) cut down on street smells dramatically, about 90-95% for me. It’s hard to tell, of course, what exactly is being filtered out just from usage, but symptomatically I’ve noticed a huge improvement given recent heavily polluted days.
Initially, it was a little claustrophobic and given the warmer temperatures in Hong Kong, it took getting used to wearing material across my face, but the built-in valve helped to prevent carbon dioxide and moisture from building up from my exhalations – and the benefits were worth it. The sizing guide was perfect (I am a Medium+). My husband (a Large) tried the organic cotton double-valved mask, and loved it from the start. Plus, we both like that these masks are durable and can last several months with proper care.
One caveat: I just have to remember to wait to apply lipgloss until after I’ve removed the mask!
Overall: 5 Stars for Vogmask