Do pollution masks really protect you from Utah's bad air?

Do pollution masks really protect you from Utah's bad air? (Photo: Dr. Brian Moench)

Do they or don't they work? That is the question big question always come up during the winter when people start sporting masks during the inversion. “That's a sad commentary that we have to have masks to breath the air in this community, it shouldn't be like that,” Dr. Brian Moench is President of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. A sad commentary and reality here in on the Wasatch Front. Every winter the conversation of how to battle the unhealthy air comes up, one of those masks. “We don’t dissuade people from using those masks,” Dr. Moench said.

Dr. Moench said basic surgical masks aren't really effective, but N95 masks are helpful. the really effective masks have to be airtight which can make it difficult to breath, “It's very difficult to run, it's very difficult to bike uphill in a tightly fitting mask which is the most protective.”

Dr. Moench said something you can do to really help is buy an air filter system for your bedroom or upgrade the filter in your homes' furnace, “Even better solution is to spend a little more money is to get an electronic filter and so you can filter out the particles in your whole house.”

He said our best defense is cutting down on wood burning, driving and doing our best to get rid of this genuine health hazard, “I'll tell you what's more frightening than those masks is to look at people's lungs, who have been inhaling air pollution that we are all being exposed to. People shouldn't have to be wearing masks in order to simply be breathing the air, we ought to be able to do better than that, and we can,” he said.

With air filters, and masks, Dr. Moench said you must make sure you are filtering out the right size particles, it has to be able to filter out 2.5 microns or smaller, “Those particles that are really tiny are the ones you want to try and avoid and capture through masks or filters or anything you can do,” he said.

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