Why it is a good idea to wear a mask in busy traffic?

Cyclists should wear an effective air filter mask or better move away from the busy roads. That’s the conclusion I got when looking at the animated 3D ‘Pollution map’ video of London. The orange yellow color, mainly along the main roads, indicates high level of air pollution where the blue color are area with better air quality. It is intuitive to think air pollution level is higher along the main roads and lower away from the main roads, but I could never imagine the differences can be so huge!

In the short video below you can see the highest air pollution concentrated along the main roads and peak at the junctions, likely the result of slow moving vehicles there. Most of the area far away from the main roads are much better. Next time when I have to wait for the green light at busy intersection, I will hold my breath as much as possible.

The negative health effect of different pollutants are not the same. Amongst the pollutants, ultrafine particles (0.1-0.3 micros, currently not being regulated) can travel deep down into the lungs and stay longer there than their bigger brothers (PM10, >10 microns, PM2.5 >2.5 microns). According to WHO:

Some 3.7 million premature deaths annually are attributed to outdoor air pollution. About 80% of those deaths are due to heart disease and stroke, while another 20% are from respiratory illnesses and cancers related to exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5), the most health-harmful air pollutant.

Ultra fine particles clearly reduces the health benefits of physical exercise. There are increased evidence showing these ultra-fine particles are the silence killer closely links to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. According to UCLA, the smaller the particles, the more toxic chemicals they are they are carrying. These very fine particles can travel deep into the lung. They stick to the lung and releases chemicals that damage the blood vessels and cause blood clogging plaques to form. The worst exposure is right next to the highway. Therefore, it is not a silly idea to wear a filter mask if your biking route have to go through busy traffic. However, do make sure two things, first the mask must form a good seal on your face, otherwise the pollutant will bypass the filters. Second make sure the filters are effective to block very fine particles, including those of 0.1 micron and PM2.5 (below 2.5 microns).

Totobobo filter test agaisnt ultrafine particles (0.1 microns) Test report

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What are the factors behind the comfort of Totobobo mask?

“Comfort” is an intuitive and subjective feeling. Achieving it involve tackling a complex mix of hardware and human needs. It is clear that many users commented Totobobo mask is more comfortable compared to other masks they had tried before. What is the secret behind this special level of comfort?

First and the most important, the designer is the user himself.

Here is a list of features contributes to the unique comfort of Totobobo mask:

1) Extremely soft straps. Both our head strap for the classic mask or earloop strap of the earloop mask are substantially  softer and more elastic than other masks available in the market. Many users thought that the strap may break easily because they are so soft, but after many uses, they discovered this is one of the secret that makes Totobobo mask more comfortable than other reusable masks.

2) Light weight: tipping the scale at 20 grams, Totobobo mask is the lightest reusable mask in the world. A light mask requires less force to hold it on your face, and allows the use of softer straps.

3) Stand up design: keep the filter away from touching your nose or mouth. The filter won’t soak in your own saliva like a surgical mask or cloth mask will.

4) TotoSoft material: it is our propitiatory plastic material. Soft and comfortable to touch and it does not trigger any allergic reaction. It does not contain any latex, silicone or rubber.

5) Heat moulding: fine tune the shape so that it follows the user’s face closely. Therefore it requires minimum tension from the strap to fit the mask on user’s face. Less tension = more comfortable.