Update: My original reason for writing this post was to highlight the need to protect ourselves against the air pollution so prevalent in Hong Kong, and in countless other densely populated cities around the world. I wanted a high quality, tested, reusable mask that was able to filter the air as I walked to work. You can read below to see why this is so critical for our health.
Now, with the recent coronavirus outbreak from Wuhan, China, breathing in clean air is even more important. According to SCMP, Hong Kong has confirmed its first cases of the virus, as has the United States, both in travelers from Wuhan. Fortunately, China has now placed a travel ban on Wuhan (effectively a quarantine), but many experts have said this comes too late.
I explain below why I feel the Vogmask is a solid option when it comes to pollution, but according to them, “if fitted properly, they’re efficient at filtering out viral and bacterial airborne particles” as well.*
N95 Particle Penetration Filtering Efficiency: Filter class provides >99.9% Viral and Bacterial Filtering Efficiency
If not a Vogmask, then I recommend you purchase an N95 or N99 mask locally, but it’s important to ensure a proper (snug) fit.
What About Surgical Masks?
Some experts suggest using basic surgical masks designed to filter larger droplets, which are easier to breathe through. The CDC, however, states the following:
“Surgical masks are not designed for use as particulate respirators and do not provide as much respiratory protection as an N95.
Although no sources are listed in this article from Huffpost, it does a quick job of explaining the differences between a surgical mask and an N95. Basically, surgical masks are protective in certain instances, but not as helpful as an N95 or N99 when your goal is multi-focused.
Other Steps You Can Take
Wearing a mask is a personal decision, it’s not a guarantee, and many experts point out that one of the main reasons for wearing one is simply to avoid touching your face with unclean hands. Do practice other protective measures including supporting your immune system with natural antivirals during this season, and follow these recommendations from the World Health organization (WHO):
- Clean hands with soap and water
- Cover nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with tissue or flexed elbow
- Avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms
Cleaning and Replacement: I also appreciate that Vogmask is a green, reusable mask assuming proper care. The recommendation is to hand wash with a liquid soap followed by air-drying. They suggest replacing the mask completely every 5-6 months in poor air quality conditions (which is the case in Hong Kong), but it might be prudent to replace more regularly in this case.
My own plan: I plan to wash my Vogmask(s) every 2 days, replace every 2 months, and wear specifically when I’m in populated areas where more protection (N95) is needed and I want to avoid pollution. Because Vogmasks are slightly harder to breathe through (given their filter media) than a simple surgical mask, I’ll choose a more comfortable surgical mask indoors when the risks aren’t as high.
*Vogmask has not specifically commented on their effectiveness against filtering the recent coronavirus from Wuhan in particular, they are not 100% efficient at filtering out all viruses, and must be fitted properly (snugly) to work up to their capacity.
Special Discount for The Wildery
If purchasing directly from Vogmask, you can receive 10% off your first order by entering the code wildery at checkout. Please note that I’m not being paid or sponsored by Vogmask. I reached out to them personally, based on research around their effectiveness, and received samples that I’ve been using (and loving) for months now to filter street pollution. More below!
Vogmask vs. Pollution
(Original post from September 2019)
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, diabetes and impaired neurological development in children. The bottom line is that pollution is inflammatory, and inflammation is the root cause of many diseases.
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 airborne particles such as PM 0.3, PM 2.5, PM 10, dust, allergens, post combustion particles, germs, shavings, biologics, odors, scents, mold, mold spores, particles in wildfire smoke, volcanic particulate pollution, and other airborne contaminants. The benefits of particulate respirators are confirmed by leading health providers worldwide. Highly efficient filtering masks help protect the mask wearer from particles as small as .254 microns. Particulate respirators are designed to protect the wearer of the mask only. For environments where cross-contamination is a concern, a surgical mask is recommended.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
Special Discount for The Wildery
If you’d like to purchase a Vogmask, use the code wildery at checkout for a 10% discount on your first order.
To note, I am not being paid or sponsored to recommend Vogmask. I reached out to them personally, based on research around their effectiveness, and received samples that I’ve been using (and loving) for months now.