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Pollution masks.....advice please

jackdonovan86jackdonovan86 Posts: 2
edited February 2019 in Commuting general
With the general hype in the media around toxic air, not to mention the lung-full I get whenever sat at the lights on my commute through London I'm exploring some of the options.

Can anyone share any preferences of which I should go for? Previous experiences / general positives & negatives etc would be really helpful....



  • TBH, I haven't used one for any length of time - always felt like it stopped me breathing when i was going at full pelt.
    I had a Respro Bandit for when I was riding in dusty conditions. Not sure how it would stack up to microparticles
    Some more here:
    Don't care what it says in the article (I have a few masks for snowboarding) - and they all get really wet once you heat up.
    2007 Felt Q720 (the ratbike)
    2012 Cube Ltd SL (the hardtail XC 26er)
    2014 Lapierre Zesty TR 329 (the full-sus 29er)
  • I looked into masks a few years back after getting a diagnosis of asthma. Never had breathing difficulties in my life before that so it came as a shock to find out my persistent cough was asthma. Add to that the tight chest at times I was worried. So looked online for information.

    The comments on forums, cycling websites and newspaper sites seemed to say they are only good if they fit your face without leaks. If they are then you'll not find any such mask that's comfortable to wear cycling. The airflow through the filters is never enough unless you're really taking it easy.

    I think one advise was to get a big industrial filter mask with the replaceable filters either side of the nose and get it properly face fitted. You'll look like you're cycling through some post apocalypse after a biological / chemical war but it's the only mask with the airflow required.

    Others rate the totobobo as being comfortable but i guess only if you're happy with it getting wet inside. It does show you how well it seals though. IIRC the moisture forms a seal at the edge, any gaps it's shown by the moisture creating a gap to the edge.

    The new brands listed from Cambridge and USA are a cheap way to see if the respro masks suit you but I think the respro are possibly better for a reason. Look for POWA valves in the model of mask if you're getting one.

    At the end of the day they might work but it's whether you can get on with them. If you can then you're at least reducing your pollution exposure by something so better than nothing. If you can't get by then great.
  • oxomanoxoman Posts: 11,746
    TBH I've never bothered with a proper mask and just used a doubled up buff over the nose and mouth when it's really bad and washed daily. Luckily most of my commute is now country roads so only pollution I tend to suffer is harvest time.
    Too many bikes according to Mrs O.
  • The RookieThe Rookie Posts: 27,811
    A doubled up buff may filter dust, the harmful particulates from Diesel vehicles will sail right through it, its just your own placebo.
    Currently riding a Whyte T130C, X0 drivetrain, Magura Trail brakes converted to mixed wheel size (homebuilt wheels) with 140mm Fox 34 Rhythm and RP23 suspension. 12.2Kg.
  • oxomanoxoman Posts: 11,746
    Maybe so Rookie, but i'm of an age to remember walking to school along main roads inhaling petrol fumes from cars with manual chokes and diesel vehicles which were mainly HGV,s belching out black fumes. Most cars that are running today are far better than in the past in terms of exhaust fumes, auto chokes, catalytic converters, DPF,s etc. My own personal view is that the huge increase in the likes of asthma are in part caused by all houses now being centrally heated and offices having aircon etc. Whilst i don't have asthma, my wife does all be it mild and both lads suffered until their early teens but again only mildy.
    Too many bikes according to Mrs O.
  • The RookieThe Rookie Posts: 27,811
    The difference today on Diesels is that they produce a lot more of the very small particulates that can pass into the blood stream, the old clunky Diesels produced very little that could do that.
    Currently riding a Whyte T130C, X0 drivetrain, Magura Trail brakes converted to mixed wheel size (homebuilt wheels) with 140mm Fox 34 Rhythm and RP23 suspension. 12.2Kg.
  • I use a pollution mask during my commute. I just went with a bog-standard Respro anti pollution mask. It's not comfortable and it fills with moisture/spit if you ride at any sort of intensity, equally it does make breathing more difficult (though I can't think of a mask that wouldn't). However, it does get the job done, which is ultimately the most important factor.

    For me, I didn't spend too much time investigating, but just wanted to get a solution asap as I was getting a sore throat from commuting in London traffic. The main thing I used to feel was a searing on the back of my throat when i'd be breathing heavily, especially behind big busses and vans. That felt like hot particles getting blasted out the car and into my lungs. As a result, I was getting an irritated throat and had a constant light cough after 2 weeks of commuting.

    I can't say I like having to wear the mask, but it does make a big difference as far as reducing the effects of pollution on my health, and you do get used to it after time. Given I like to train on my commutes, I tend to not wear the mask for half of it, as the route I take is generally quite light in traffic once i'm a little further out, but definitely want to be wearing it when in dense traffic.

    The reason I mention the negatives is that I think its valuable to understand what you are getting yourself in for, but to also know the benefits are worth it. The worst thing that can happen is that you end up buying one and get overwhelmed by the horrible sensation and just stop wearing it instantly, you will need to be willing to give it time, but they are defo worth it.
  • The RookieThe Rookie Posts: 27,811
    You need a valved mask, so that when you breath out it vents straight out not via the filter, the real benefit is not when breathing out but not loading the filter with condensate from your breath with restricts flow when you breath in.

    Something like ... 1IEALw_wcB
    Currently riding a Whyte T130C, X0 drivetrain, Magura Trail brakes converted to mixed wheel size (homebuilt wheels) with 140mm Fox 34 Rhythm and RP23 suspension. 12.2Kg.
  • Some have already seen it, but GCN released a clip about city air pollution and its concerns on cycling in the city:

    How Toxic Is City Cycling? | GCN Investigates

    To sum up, cities have high air pollutants in various forms. However, cycling as a form of physical activity outweighs far more than the health risks from air pollution. The evidence is compelling, but there seems to be a tipping point to this balance; for example, heavily polluted cities like New Delhi was mentioned and was suggested that exercising over 90min in heavily polluted areas can actually tip the balance and the health risks increases over the benefit from physical activity.

    So what are the practical advice for cyclists?:

    - Avoid cycling in rush hour
    - Take back roads
    - Effects of face masks are inconclusive for cycling: 1) face masks can only filter some of the many air pollutants, not all; 2) face masks must be completely sealed around the face for them to be effective (any gap will let in pollutants and negate their function); 3) they are very uncomfortable under physical exertion...
    - Have a balanced diet to combat inflammatory reaction to air pollution.

    I thought these were informed and very pragmatic advice from the researchers and GCN.

    ***Apparently there's an evidence that air inside the car is significantly worse than outside!!***
  • elbowlohelbowloh Posts: 7,078
    Yes, i've never bothered, because as far as i could see, none of the masks could effectively filter out the really harmful particulates. Yes, your filters might turn black and you think they're working, but really they're not worth it.

    Plus, i hate having my mouth covered whilst cycling. I can't even use a buff over my mouth, it feels like it's suffocating me.

    Haven't there been studies that say that the effects of road pollution is actually felt more by car drivers compared to cyclists due to the level at which the air vents sit in a car?
    Felt F1 2014
    Felt Z6 2012
    Red Arthur Caygill steel frame
  • Just been reading up on masks for work and would like to clarify a few points raised above. Most respro masks are N99 / FFP3 rated as are cambridge mask company pro masks. This is the highest rated dust mask category. It filters out a minimum of 99% of all particulates PM2.5, PM10 and as fine as PM0.3. PM0.3 is 0.3 microns which is the size that gets into your blood.

    Totobobo is FFP2/ P2 at best and P1 for basic filter type.

    The disposable, industrial mask linked to above is FFP1 the lowest category with iirc 90% filtered out particulates. That's only good for light dust conditions such as hand sanding.

    These ratings mean 4x occupational exposure limit / 4x for assigned protection factor for FFP1, 12x/10x for FFP2 and 50x/20x for FFP3.

    Add to that not all masks work against organics / oils. For that you need CV after the FFP number. The better respro masks have this as have cambridge pro models.

    Of course good fit is essential. Totobobo one's are transparent and scissor customisable so fit is easier to achieve. Poor fit reduces effectiveness. I suspect if you're not getting the benefits it's because you've not fitted them right. At work we hire a guy to come in and fit masks to new employees who n need them. They get trained in fitting and putting them on properly. It's not something you can guess at.

    As to difficulty breathing, isn't that like wearing one of those breath training devices to exercise your breathing muscles? Consider it resistance training for your breath muscles. Just think how much your physical prowess on tie bike might improve when you're not wearing it after some time using it.
  • mtb-idlemtb-idle Posts: 2,179
    a cycling buddy in my office has a daughter who specialises in these things and she apparently advises councils/governments accordingly.

    According to him there is nothing short of industrial strength filtration that will stop the pollution Needless to say but this isn't available to yer average punter so it's all a bit rhetorical.
    FCN = 4
  • andyebandyeb Posts: 407
    I have a Respro Techno Mask, which I use in London. It must be doing some good, because when I take it off to have a drink, I can “taste” the air.

    Main disadvantage of wearing a mask is that your voice is muted if you need to warn a pedestrian about to step off the kerb without looking.
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