By Zoe Han
N95 masks are the most cost-effective option for protection against wildfire smoke and haze, but anything is cheaper than the Dyson version.
The smog is finally clearing in New York City, but it has left many people wondering how to protect themselves from polluted air in the future. Air purifiers can help, but most people have to leave their homes at some point, and they’re looking for technology they can take with them.
The terrible air quality in much of the Northeast last week due to wildfires in Canada has some people considering Dyson’s $900 air purifying mask and headphone combo.
“Only Dyson can save us from Toronto’s terrible air pollution,” Twitter user @Rjey tweeted along with a picture of a model wearing Dyson Zone headphones.
When the headset came out late last year, reviewers expressed doubts that anyone would wear it in public because of its looks, weight, and less-than-perfect volume control over the headphones.
But smoke from a massive wildfire in Quebec has turned the air the Big Apple’s orange. For two days in a row, the city has been ranked second in the world for the most polluted air – after New Delhi, India. New Yorkers reported scratchy throats and itchy eyes. Officials have advised residents to stay home and schools have announced that some activities will be conducted remotely.
Read: When will the smoke clear? Canadian wildfires could affect US air quality for days
“Air pollution from the spread of wildfires is unfortunately our new reality. Perhaps Dyson was right to think that this kind of wearable technology really is our future,” Esquire’s business editor Krista Jones wrote about her change of perspective after a colleague tested it. Dyson Zone this week. A colleague of Jones says that using the headphones is “like walking through a personal air purifier.”
Dyson claims on its product page that the Zone removes 99% of pollutants down to 0.1 microns and also filters gases, and can connect to a mobile app for real-time air quality updates. Dyson did not respond to a request for comment.
Smaller particles, less than 2.5 microns in diameter, are a concern for the health effects of air pollution, researchers say. Exposure can cause inflammation and weaken the immune system, and is linked to a long-term risk of lung and respiratory disease.
So as climate change brings more wildfires, more people may start wearing masks again. But there are cheaper ways to do it than the Dyson Zone.
What are other high-tech options?
For those looking for a high-tech mask, also known as a personal respirator, Dyson’s offering is neither the first nor the cheapest. A few brands, some based in Asia, have focused on smart personal respirators for years, and consumers have turned to them in areas where smog and air pollution are frequent problems. People in California and countries including China, India and Singapore have for years dealt with poor air quality caused by wildfires, agricultural burning or industrial emissions.
Also read: I grew up in Asia with noxious smoke from forest fires. Here’s what I learned.
While some cheaper models include headphones like the Dyson Zone, most focus on better air filtration and filtration and airflow management.
The best-selling air-purifying masks on ShopMask — a global online retailer launched in early 2020 to meet demand for masks at the start of the pandemic — are the Philips Clean Air Mask and the LG PuriCare wearable air purifier, according to data the company provided to MarketWatch.
Both the Philips ( PHIA.AE ) and LG models are battery-powered and offer active air filtration, a useful feature for users who don’t like the increased humidity caused by shared masks, the company told MarketWatch.
The $289 LG PuriCare on Shopmask claims to filter up to 99.7% of particles, while the Philips model from Japan costs $199 and filters 95% of particles.
The site sells personal respirators from brands like Woobi Plus and Blovx Sphyrna, most of which cost less than $100. The mask is mainly sought after by people who participate in vigorous sports or athletic activities, the website says.
The cheapest option? Our old friend N95.
The best way to avoid inhaling wildfire smoke is to stay indoors, officials said. But when people need to be outdoors in the smoke, the California Department of Public Health recommends using N95 respirators, which are designed to filter out 95% of particles 0.3 microns or larger. These are considered by experts to be the most effective masks used by most people.
N95 disposable masks cost around $10 for a pack of 10 on Amazon (AMZN). New York State has announced plans to distribute free N95 masks to residents. Among those most vulnerable to air pollution are low-income people, homeless people, or people who work outside the home.
People with medical conditions such as chronic respiratory disease or heart disease may find that wearing an N95 mask makes breathing difficult. They should consult with their healthcare providers about recommended options, according to the Food and Drug Administration website.
But even the best performing masks don’t work well if they don’t fit properly. Research has shown that many commercially available masks may not provide adequate protection against air pollution.
For more context: ‘We need a fairer approach to the climate crisis’: Low-income people and communities of color suffer most when air quality declines
– Zo Han
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