The wildfires tearing up the west have been devastating. We’re fortunate that our home is safe but I’ve been living like a shut-in for 10 consecutive days due to the toxic air here in Portland. Oregon’s air is so hazardous that no actually can even say how badly it can affect one’s health. It’s broken records around the world —reaching well over 500 AQI.
As someone who suffers from asthma, going outside hasn’t even been an option. Although we have accumulated a growing collection of cloth masks, surgical masks, and dust masks, they aren’t suitable for filtering out the microparticles outside. Going out just isn’t an option without the right level of protection. Knowing how much smoke affects me with my asthma, my partner Jason researched options for investing in reusable respirator masks and filters.
Before he ordered masks and filters, a bit of research was in order. Here’s a snippet of what we learned:
The most harmful pollutant to human health is called PM 2.5, particle matter smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter that’s found in soot, smoke, and dust. PM 2.5 is especially dangerous because it can get lodged in the lungs and cause long-term health problems like asthma and chronic lung disease.
PM 2.5 starts to become a major health problem when there is more than 35.5 micrograms (µg) of PM 2.5 per cubic meter of air, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
During this process, we learned the best way to choose a mask is to first select a mask based on fit, then order the filters separately. The two most prominent brands in this space are Honeywell and 3M. We chose 3M masks over Honeywell as we felt they were more common locally and would have good availability for when we needed to replace the cartridge filters.
The filter we purchased to pair with the half masks is the 3M™ Multi Gas/Vapor Cartridge/Filter 60926 P100.
It’s typically used for respiratory protection from certain organic vapors: chlorine, hydrogen chloride, sulfur dioxide, chlorine dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, methylamine, formaldehyde, or hydrogen fluoride, and non-oil and oil particulate concentrations up to 10 times the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) with half facepieces or 50 times PEL with quantitatively fit tested full facepiece masks. Included in that is asbestos, which was a concern for us with all the burned houses.
Today our reusable respirator masks finally arrived and I was able to safely go outside and not have that smell of smoke in my lungs. It was amazing and terrible at the same time.
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