7 Reasons To Wear An Air Filter Mask, Whether Or Not Your City Is Smoggy

Bad air quality may seem like a less pressing issue compared to other current events, but it is deadly and has a global impact. On Oct. 19, a two-year, expansive study published by The Lancet revealed that pollution kills 9 million people around the world annually. The Washington Post reported that “poor air quality was the most significant pollution-related killer” found in the study, and that an estimated 6.5 million deaths were caused by respiratory-related health conditions such as lung cancer, or heart disease. If you're worried about the air quality in your city, respirators, aka filter masks, might be an option for you. Air Filter Masks used to be thought of as equipment for medical professionals and construction workers, but they're more wearable and easy to use than ever before. Plus, there are other reasons to wear an air filter mask even if your city isn't overly smoggy — there are options for people who live with other respiratory issues, too.

Reducing air pollution will require much policy change, and decades of reversal under amendments like The Clean Air Act. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t protect yourself from dirty air. Filter masks help protect you from larger particulates, which are inhalable particles of toxic materials like sand, dust, ash, construction site materials, and more. The FDA recommends N95 masks, which filter out 95 percent of airborne toxins and particulates. There are many different brands of respirators and varying price ranges; the popular Vogmask costs is more affordable at around $30 on Amazon, but Respro Masks can cost up to $80. In the past, filter masks may have been impractical for day-to-day activities, but nowadays, they are more feasible and sleek. Here are seven reasons to invest in a filter mask to support your respiratory health.

1Air quality is worse this year in the Western United States because of the wildfires.

The California wildfires have devastated the Golden State, completely destroying structures, land, and ecosystems in affected areas. However, the environmental and air impact goes well beyond the boundaries of the fires. Air quality across Western states like Utah have worsened due to the conflagrations, and have recorded larger particles of smoky, air pollution in recent weeks. If you live out West and didn't need a filter mask in previous years, it may be more crucial now than ever before to buy one.

2It can protect you from developing, or redeveloping severe asthma

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), bronchial asthma — a sometimes-fatal disease characterized by wheeziness and loss of breath — usually begins in childhood, but is influenced by environmental factors such as air quality. Some people in cities with lots of air pollution have reported a return of child asthmatic symptoms, or even new issues with breathing. So, possibly wearing a filter mask could make all the difference if you've ever had issues with asthma.

3Air pollution can cause lung cancer and other respiratory health issues in the long run

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Even if you do not have asthma or current health problems due to air pollution, exposing yourself to it on the regular is a risk factor in developing lung cancer later in life. A 2012 study from The Chinese University of Hong Kong also revealed the "acute" correlation between outside pollutants in urban areas, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (aka, COPD or emphysema). Gambling with your longterm respiratory health isn't worth the risk, so consider buying a filter mask if you live in an smoggy area.

4They are better than surgical masks

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While surgical masks do offer slight respiratory protection from airborne toxins, the United States' Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cautions that filter masks offer the best protection due to their tight seals. Investing in a filter mask, if you are financially able, is way better than relying on a flimsy surgical mask to protect you from toxic chemicals and poor air quality.

5Filter masks protect your immune system

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Researchers at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley discovered that not only does dirty air worsen asthma, but it decreases the function of a gene that can actually alter your immune system. If you load up on your allergy meds and nutritious foods, yet still have persistent cold, cough, or runny nose, that's your cue you might want a filter mask — especially if you spend extensive time outdoors in a smoggy city.

6Filter masks stop the spread of germs

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Not only are respirators good for filtering out dirty air, they help prevent the spread of viruses according to a 2008 study. Scientists have predicted this flu season could be more severe than previous years, so why not invest in a mask that protects your health and the health of those around you?

7Respirators can be pretty stylish.

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When most people envision a gas or filter mask, they probably picture WWII-era masks that are heavy, bulky, and not very practical for daily use. However, filter mask tech has come a long way since then, and doesn't have to get in the way of your daily activities. For example, Vogmask makes a variety of masks with cute AF patterns that make you feel a bit more stylish while wearing a respirator. Or, if a mask just isn't comfortable for you, there is now a scarf, aptly named Bioscarf, created to filter out air pollution at the same efficiency as respirators.

Whether you go with a filter mask, respirator, or even an EPA-approved home air purifiers, protecting your respiratory health should be a priority. Don't allow air quality to impact your lungs, or impede your physical heath.