|Heavy fine dust in Seoul
A mask is one of the sanitary products that have been used for a long time. It is usually used to avoid harming others when someone has caught a cold. Because of fine dust warnings, the purpose of using a mask is changing to include protecting people from micro dust. Media and experts always talk about fine dust particles and they say that these particles are too small to be screened out by conventional masks. Because of this, people tend to choose industrial masks used by workers at construction sites. Thus, the protective gear worn by workers in harmful environments has become a general mask worn by ordinary people and even children under the name of health in Korea.
The health mask certified by the Korean Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ‘KF 80’ can filter more than 80% of fine particles of size ‘0.6㎛’. ‘KF 94’ and ‘KF 99’ filter particles of 0.4㎛ at about 94% and 99% separately In other words, the higher the rating, the more effective it is. However, the higher dust removal rate makes it more uncomfortable to breathe. It may not be a big problem for healthy people. If you take it off, the symptoms will disappear and the effects will not remain. But what are the effects for the sick, elderly, and pregnant people? Is it healthy to breathe with a mask?
The American Thoracic Society warns that wearing protective masks can make breathing difficult and cause physical strain. This means that it increases the frequency of breathing due to decreasing the amount of air in each breath. It causes negative effects such as decreased cardiac output. The Hong Kong Medical Association has worked with the government to create guidance for physicians. They said that elderly people with chronic lung disease or heart disease and pregnant women are already suffering from reduced lung capacity and breathing problems. They recommend people don’t use masks if they feel uncomfortable. They also say it is necessary to consult a doctor before using a ‘N95 mask’.
However, the Korean Government is different. They say that people should wear a mask even if the pollution level of fine dust increases only a little bit. The Food and Drug Administration, which is in charge of verification, has not given any warning about using masks. If South Korea’s atmosphere is just as harmful as construction sites then all Koreans have to wear industrial masks. However, the current level of fine dust in Korea is not at factory or construction site levels that are filled with harmful substances. If that were the case, it would not be a country which we could live in.
In reality, it is not easy to wear a mask properly. This is because they have to stick to faces completely. Otherwise, fine dust will enter through the gap between the face and mask. That is why many academic papers point out that wearing a mask is not helpful, and mask companies recommend that you use it completely on your face. But, the closer a mask sticks to your face, the harder it is to breathe. It can lower the supply of oxygen necessary for your body.
There is another thing that you can do instead of wearing a mask. Many countries, including the U.S, present guidelines that encourage lowering the intensity or time of physical activity depending on the level of pollution. For example, changing hiking or jogging all day to a short walk. This medical recommendation is based on the fact that the amount of breathing increases rapidly depending on the difficulty of the activity. Unlike masks, it is a wise way to reduce exposure to pollutants without harming the body at all.
By Park Jun-ho, reporter
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