gas masks A gas mask is an air-purifying respirator designed to filter chemical gases and particles from the air you breathe. It consists of a facepiece or mask and a filter cartridge, or canister (in some cases the cartridge is inside a metal shell that’s attached to a strap around your head).
A full-face model protects not only your mouth and nose but your eyes as well. These types of masks may be disposable or reusable and can accommodate different filters for various gas and vapor contaminants. There are also hooded and half-mask models that can be worn over the head or ears. Some people can’t wear a respirator. These include children, infants, elderly people with underlying lung diseases such as asthma or emphysema and those who have claustrophobia.
If you do wear a mask, be sure it makes a tight seal when you breathe. Anything that prevents it from fitting tightly, such as a beard or long sideburns, can leak contaminated air. If the mask fits poorly or you don’t adjust ties, bands and ear loops properly, it can allow contaminated air to blow in around the edges.
Some studies estimate that breathing through a mask can reduce respiratory and asthma hospitalizations by 7% to 18% compared with an assumption that people would not wear a mask. However, the studies depend on a number of uncertain input parameters, such as the bypass rate (the portion of air that passes through the mask instead of going through the filter). That’s why additional research is needed to better understand the impact of mask wearing on human health and wellbeing.