In my search for a mask to protect me from air pollution along the roads I decided to check out a store where they sell protective equipment for workers. The idea was good, but it only made things more complicated. There were so many respirator masks that the visit became more of a sort of an inquisition for the people that worked there. I asked them hundreds of questions about the respirator masks that I thought would be suitable for bicycle riding.
I knew that I needed a respirator mask that would be easy to breathe in, that would fit tight on my face so it would not allow my breath to flow directly into my eyes, and that would be easy to use with other things like sunglasses or head lamps or whatever I may need to put on my head while riding a bicycle.
Instantly I went for the most fancy looking respirator mask. Made out of rubber, plastic, and with replaceable filters. It was fitting perfectly, but it had some very nasty smell. It was the rubber it self. I would have gone for it despite the nasty smell, but the price was not so easily accessible - about 40 Euros. At least it was quite more expensive than what I was expecting. Another thing that I could not find out was the duration of the filter. The people in the shop could only say that it is very dependable on a number of factors, like the level of pollution, flow of air, percentage of oxygen, etc. I was not about to make a fairly expensive purchase of a respirator mask that I would seldom ware, especially if I would need to change the filter every day or so. So I said that I have to find out prior deciding.
Still I was not about to leave the shop empty handed. So I just took a simple, single-use respirator mask made out some sort of synthetic material that cost some 1,5 Euros. It was a Sekur Mandil Filtering Facepiece with No.2 filter type.
Originally I do not like these masks because they do not fit well and every time I breathe out the air just goes out through the top around my nose and makes my sunglasses all in condensed water vapor. But this particular model had a valve to let the air out, and it had some extra bits and pieces to make the respirator mask better fitting. I said I'd give it a try.
It took me a lot, and when I say a lot, I mean a lot of time to make it fit to my face not to dim my sunglasses. Eventually, after about 5 or 6 remodeling of the piece of wire about the nose, I managed to make it appropriate and fitting to my face. This happened about 3 to 4 hours after I got the respirator mask. I was very happy that it was like perfect, but it got me thinking: this is a throw away respirator mask, not something I could keep for a very long time. If I have to spend an hour or more until I make it fit, the respirator mask is no good.
What I found surprisingly good about this respirator mask is the effectiveness. I was using it in winter conditions with temperatures bellow zero Celsius and occurrence of fog with pollution of PM10 and other things that flow in the air in Skopje, Macedonia that I am not aware of. The respirator mask provided easy breathing. Not as easy as without a mask, but no special difficulty. Due to the exit valve, the respirator mask did not move when I would breathe out. It did have some water condensation on the valve. But with every breathing out, some of that water was expelled out of the mask, so not a lot of water remains on the valve. I noticed whenever I took the respirator mask out I was hit with the stench of the fog. So I guess the respirator mask did its thing in filtering the air so not a lot of the air pollution reached my nose.
In technical aspect, the respirator mask model Mandil FFP2 is designed ideally to filter at least 94% of the airborne particles. The specifications of the respirator mask said other things that did not make much sense to me, but most probably do to air pollution experts. What I understood was the point that said Total inward leakage lower than 8%. I guess that there is no such thing as a perfect fit on these masks. Especially if one has a big beard it would leak more. But I was happy that my sunglasses were clear, and that was very important for me.
After using it for one whole day, I think that I could continue to use it for a few more days. It is not like it resolves on air. I guess I could make a new mask fitting to my face once every now and then, whenever I would need to use it.
Having said all of the above, I think that it is a good respirator mask to have around. However, I am only wondering if it is a good respirator mask to take on a tour. Packing the respirator mask in a bag could easily ruin the fitting. I'm beginning to think that for a tour I would need some sort of a respirator mask that is made out of some cloth that could be easily packable, not to take a lot of space, and potentially washable.