Do Pollution Masks Cause Breathing Problems?

NAROO F.U+ Copper - Filtering Sports Mask for running in Spring Pollen Season in forest

If you live in a place with high pollution levels, you’re probably familiar with all of the ways to cope with this major public health issue. You can invest in an air purifier, clean regularly, stay inside, and wear a mask if you have to go out. But if you’re an athlete or a person who likes the outdoors, staying inside can keep you from doing what you love. So what is the solution for athletes and people who like to enjoy the outdoors?

Before we get to that, let’s take a look at the common concerns of people who live in places with high pollution.

Concerns about wearing pollution masks

One of the biggest worries people have about wearing a pollution mask is that we won’t be able to breathe. The thought of covering our noses and mouths seems like it may be uncomfortable or cause shortness of breath. Dr. Evelyn Lewin and many other doctors have done research that addresses our concerns. In an article she published in October 2020 she explains that face masks don’t affect gas exchange, which basically means we still get the air we need while wearing a mask. This is good news. However, that doesn’t make them any easier to wear. This is not so good news.

In hot weather, they can get too hot. In the cold weather, the moisture from your breath can freeze, making the mask uncomfortable and less effective. They are sealed on all sides of the face, which can make you feel smothered. Or alternatively, improperly sealed masks can send warm air up into your eyes. In general, they just seem quite uncomfortable and not worth wearing despite heavy pollution.

NAROO F.U+ Copper - Filtering Sports Mask for cycling in Spring Pollen Season in city

What the experts say about wearing pollution masks

Our worries about wearing masks are real concerns. These concerns inspired doctors and research experts all over the world to research and explain how wearing masks can affect our breathing and our lives. Even though doctors have found that masks allow us to get the air we need, they are still uncomfortable, which can cause us anxiety.

Canada-based lung specialist Christpher Ewing tells us that when we feel discomfort, the way we breathe can change. He says that it is important to give ourselves time to get used to wearing masks. It’s like taking time to get used to a new pair of glasses. 

How do pollution masks work?

Pollution masks can stop pollution from entering your lungs and affecting your entire body in several ways. 

  1. Fabric choice: Different kinds of fabrics can filter pollutants with varying effectiveness. Most pollution masks use a combination of fabrics to create an effective filter.
  2. Fabric thickness and layering: The thicker the fabric, the more effective the filter. Combined with layering of fabrics, this makes for an effective mask.
  3. Stitching choice: Pollution masks should be tightly stitched or else they are not effective at all. The choice of stitching is key to a good pollution mask.
  4. Mask fit: How a mask fits may be the single most crucial aspect of a pollution mask. If it does not seal tightly to your face, pollution can get in. A good pollution mask creates a seal from your nose, to your cheeks, to your chin. No unfiltered air should get in.
  5. Copper: Some masks have begun to include copper as a filtration aid as it has native antimicrobial properties, making the masks not only effective against pollution, but bacteria as well.

Using the methods above, an effective pollution mask should filter pollutants of at least 2.5 microns in size in order to truly be an anti-pollution mask. 

But can pollution masks really protect us as athletes?

Short answer: Yes. 

The longer answer is dependent on if the mask is well constructed and even better fitted. Tight stitching is paramount as well as the layering of the fabric. If the mask doesn’t fit properly, it is essentially useless against pollution. 

Masks should also be tested by accredited third party institutions to be sure that they can filter pollutants at least as small as 2.5 microns in size. That is the size of many of the most harmful particles that need to be functionally trapped by a good pollution mask. If they can, then you have found a good pollution mask

A key point in a pollution mask for an athlete is comfort. This is also protection as an uncomfortable mask we don’t want to wear is not protection at all. A good mask for our outdoor adventures needs to be comfortable.

NAROO F.U+ Copper - Filtering Sports Mask for cycling in Spring Season and Pollen Graphic

What does NAROO have to do with it?

NAROO knows what athletes need: a breathable, functional pollution mask that will let them exercise safely. With that in mind, we created the F Series, which is a set of filtering masks that address the concerns of mask wearers, and of sports people wanting to head outdoors.

  1. Are the masks breathable? Yes. This is the one quality that sets this line apart from other pollution masks and makes it especially suited for sports people. Our masks are easy to breathe in.
  2. Do they have testing certifications? Yes, we have certifications proving their effectiveness as pollution masks. 
  3. Do they create a seal? The masks seal against the face and shield it from pollutants. The bendable nose wire allows it to fit to the nose and under eye area snugly while the stitching of the knit fabric hugs the cheeks and chin to seal it.
  4. What size particles do they filter? They filter particles as small as 1.7 microns, catching not only normal pollutants but ultrafine particles.
  5. Do they use tight stitching? Our masks are made with a special knit that allow them to be both breathable and stitched tightly enough to catch pollutants.
  6. What about discomfort in the heat and the cold? The F Series have many different masks that are suited for use in hot and cold weather. Moisture-wicking fabric allows for any perspiration or condensation from your breath to quickly evaporate. This means no soggy masks.
  7. Are NAROO F Series masks comfortable? This series is designed for the sports person with comfort and effective filtering in mind. Ambassadors and NAROO customers from all over the world enjoy the easy breathing comfort of these masks.

If you’re a sports person who lives in a place with high pollution, let NAROO filtering masks protect your airways as you take a walk or a jog, hit the bike trails, or whatever other sort of outdoor activity you’d like to perform. Our F series masks are made for your safety and comfort.

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