The Best Masks for Wildfire Smoke - What to Know

Air Quality During a Wildfire

Smoke after any kind of fire, be it the burning of a forest, crop or waste, releases a mixture of harmful particles and chemicals and negatively impacts air quality. Smoke could contain carbon monoxide, acidic gasses, sulfur dioxide and small harmful particles, depending on what is being burnt and much oxygen is available etc. Regardless of the type of fire and its intensity however, one must totally avoid exposure to high levels of smoke.

Inhaling smoke for only a short period of time can have instant harmful effects, including eye, nose, and throat irritation, and temporary changes in lung function that affects your breathing. Carbon monoxide reduces oxygen in the body, whereas inhaling the fine particles could cause respiratory problems and can exacerbate medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease. Exposure to smoke in the long term has been linked with increases in cardiovascular diseases and mortality rates and other long-term health effects.

Effects of smoke exposure are especially dangerous to babies, young children and the elderly, as well as individuals to prior cardiovascular or respiratory conditions. One of the ways one can protect oneself from these harmful effects is wearing a proper respiratory device.

The Best N95 Mask for Wildfire Smoke - Key Features to Look Out For

There are many different respirators sold at hardware stores and pharmacies, but for protection against wildfire smoke you must choose a “particulate respirator”, and studies have shown that the best one is an N95 mask. Our WellBefore N95 Medical Use Mask meets the GB 19083-2010 Standard for a protective respirator for medical use and can range anywhere from 95% to 98% filtration efficiency.

These masks have been tested and approved to ensure that you are protected.You must look for an N95 mask that has been approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), or one where the words “NIOSH” printed on it.

You have to choose one that has two straps that fit around your head, and make sure that its size allows it to perfectly fit over your nose and around your chin. One strap or two strap masks are not designed to perfectly fit your face. The mask needs to be sealed to your face, as any open edges will defeat the purpose and cause unfiltered air to enter, so size is critical.

It is recommended that people with beards shave before using their mask, as fully sealing the mask to the face will not be successful if facial hair gets in the way.

At WellBefore we offer a wide selection of masks, including N95 NIOSH approved masks that you can obtain as one of the methods of protection from wildfire masks.

It should be noted that respirator N95 masks provide limited protection, they filter‐out fine particles but not hazardous gasses (such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and acrolein). It is recommended that one stays away from smoke as the number one method of decreasing risk of smoke related health issues.

How Long Can You Wear a N95 Mask for Wildfire Smoke?

You can re-wear your N95 mask for wildfire smoke a few times, but it is critical that your mask stays clean, dry and well-fitted. You could do this by storing your mask in a sterile, sealed container with hard sides to be certain it won’t get dirty, wet or bent out of shape.

Most respirators are, however, disposable, and it is recommended that you get rid of it after one use. You should also dispose of it and wear a new one if you’re experiencing difficulty in breathing or if you’re getting dizzy.

In general, you can keep your mask on for as long as it is dry, but as soon as it becomes moist you should dispose of it and switch to a new one. It is recommended that you wait until you are somewhere with clean air quality and then remove the mask.

Can You Use a Kn95 Mask for Wildfire Smoke?

KN95 masks can work for wildfire smoke, as these masks can also be very efficient at filtering out particulate matter. The only difference between them is that KN95 masks are produced in China and don’t use the same standards to test mask efficiency.

However, lab studies have shown that both masks show very high filtration efficiency. WellBefore also offers KN95 masks on our website.

Should You Use Disposable Face Masks During a Wildfire?

One-layer masks, cloth masks, bandanas, gaiters and scarves offer no proper protection against wildfires, whether they are wet or dry.

Mostly, N95 and KN95 masks are considered disposable masks, and you can definitely use them and then dispose of them if you have others you can use. However, as mentioned above, you can re-use them a few times if kept clean and dry.

It is definitely not recommended however, to use the standard 1-layer facemasks to protect you from wildfires, as they will not filter out any harmful particles.