What Is A PM2.5 Filter?

What is a PM 2.5 Filter? What does it do? Does it protect against COVID-19? Is it really a necessary feature that I should consider when buying a mask? Let’s address these questions and more in today’s blog post!

PM2.5 filters have been growing in popularity with the rise of the COVID-19 Pandemic, seen as a popular add-on feature to many cloth face masks for sale online. But just what is a PM2.5 Filter? Let’s break it down.

What is PM 2.5?

PM stands for Particulate Matter. Particulate Matter refers to all solid or liquid particles that exist suspended in the air. Some of these particles are harmless, but others...not so much. Particulate Matter varies greatly by size and composition. But PM2.5...that’s where things start to get interesting. 

The “2.5” in PM2.5 stands for the size of the particulate matter in question. In this case, 2.5 micrometers (AKA microns). Now you’re probably wondering how big a micrometer is. It is very, very small. So small, in fact, that it is about 50 times smaller than the width of a human hair. So small that the width of the period at the end of this sentence is thousands of micrometers. Isn’t that nuts? It really is mind-blowing if you think about it. 

Is PM 2.5 Dangerous?

PM2.5 is of particular interest because yes - it can be harmful to your health if it reaches certain levels in the air. What makes it so bad for us? The NY Department of Health explains things pretty well:

Particles in the PM2.5 size range are able to travel deeply into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs. Exposure to fine particles can cause short-term health effects such as eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and shortness of breath. Exposure to fine particles can also affect lung function and worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease.

 

Yikes. I’d like to avoid that, please and thank you! You might be wondering, where does PM2.5 come from? I will turn it back over to the NY Department of Health:

Outside, fine particles primarily come from car, truck, bus and off-road vehicle (e.g., construction equipment, snowmobile, locomotive) exhausts, other operations that involve the burning of fuels such as wood, heating oil or coal and natural sources such as forest and grass fires. Fine particles also form from the reaction of gases or droplets in the atmosphere from sources such as power plants. These chemical reactions can occur miles from the original source of the emissions. Because fine particles can be carried long distances from their source, events such as wildfires or volcanic eruptions can raise fine particle concentrations hundreds of miles from the event.


That’s pretty interesting. The unfortunate reality is that it seems that in our current world, PM2.5 is really more of an inevitability than a removable problem. 

What Should We Do About It?
PM 2.5 Filter for Face Mask

The good news is that you CAN avoid the harmful effects of potentially dangerous PM2.5 content in the air, with the help of a handy dandy PM2.5 filter. A PM2.5 Filter is made of activated carbon, using a combination of mechanical and electrostatic barriers to intentionally prohibit the passage of PM2.5. So, you can wear a cloth mask with a PM2.5 filter, and rest easy, knowing you are protected from any potential impact of airborne PM2.5. That’s pretty cool!

All that being said, I know what you are thinking now. How big is the coronavirus? Does any of this apply to the COVID-19 Pandemic? Is it 2.5 microns across? Well, the unfortunate reality is that airborne viruses are even smaller than PM2.5. A Coronavirus’ lipid envelope typically measures approximately 120 nanometers across (I hate to break this to you, but there are 1000 nanometers in a single micrometer! Woah!). 

But don’t worry! Hope is not lost. The truth is you only have a few categories of options when it comes to buying a mask and remaining safe. The CDC site lets you know that a cloth face covering is not a guarantee to prevent you from breathing in the virus. However, they do prevent you from spreading the disease to others as easily, and do promote a culture of social distancing and general carefulness. 

The CDC also does not recommend that you use an N95 or Surgical Mask. These are considered critical medical supplies that healthcare professionals and first responders need in order to manage the crisis effectively, and using them would contribute to a potential shortage. Therefore, we are left with the recommendation to wear a cloth face covering. From here, you can either choose to go with a standard cloth face covering (a fine choice), or choose to employ the PM2.5 Filter for some extra protection (perhaps a better one!).

At Yugenite, we have our own (admittedly biased) opinion. There is simply no better way to comply with CDC guidelines when purchasing a face mask than to go with a Cloth Face Mask with a PM2.5 Activated Carbon Filter Insert. Thank you for reading!

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