Shocking filters from London bike2work trips


Mr. Richards is a Triathlete, trying and trying to qualify for the Ironman World Championships. He advocates clean air after seeing how quickly his Totobobo filters turn into dark grey from pristine white just after a few rides to work.

I was shocked when received the used filter from G. Richards. He collected the used filters last year and the results speak for itself – you don’t want this stuff, such as PM2.5, get into your lungs!

For those curious, here are some details of Mr. Richards’ Bike2Work route:

From February to July, 2014, from Leinster Gardens, across Hyde Park and finished at the other side of River Theme. A 35 minutes cycling each way.

From July to December 2014, from Leinster Gardens to Hanover Park, 20 minutes each way.

Mr. Richards found that his right-side filter alway turns darker than his left-side filter, because he rides close to the curb and traffic is always on his right. Each pairs of filters were used for two weeks for riding to and from work.

G.Richards-filters-2 G.Richards-filters-3

Totobobo mask Review by Vivalabike from Shenzhen, China

Adrian, Willett & Mark of Viva La Bike recently post a review of Totobobo mask from Shenzhen, China.

Mark from






After wearing the Totobobo mask, I honestly feel a discernible difference between the Totobobo and other lesser masks I have worn. In short, the bottom line is the way I felt during and after the ride, as well as the before and after shots of the filter. While we do not have access to technology that assesses filter effectiveness on a chemical/molecular level, the mask seemed to perform as it was intended to perform. Overall, the performance was solid, and is an excellent choice for those concerned about air quality.

Good Seal
Small Shape
Good Fit
Super lite and thin
Thin but very strong strap
Feels durable

Intake airflow produces a suction affect on mask

Review Testing Conditions

Air temp 25C, 70-80% humidity
Medium level of pollution report by Hong Kong Air Quality center
Ride-Streets, bike paths and sidewalks of Shenzhen

Overall product performance was positive. Wearing the mask was fairly comfortable. The fit was good and it provided a solid seal when sufficient tension was placed on the strap. Inhalation(intake) provided a bit of a challenge as a suction affect occurs. However, during regular riding which requires normal inspiration/expiration, the suction effect is minimal. Exhalation(breathing out) was not an issue at all. Air flow outward tends to flow up through/by the eyes, which has the potential to fog glasses. Condensation within the mask tends to make the seal where the mask contacts the face, a bit sweaty. The positive benefits of the mask, perhaps outweigh a few of the minor nuances associated with wearing a mask that is of higher quality that of the N95 variety. Strictly going off of feeling and smell, when riding the bike while wearing the mask, intake of air simply felt improved. Riding my bike at least twice a day, I can really tell the difference between the way I feel post-ride as well as during. After wearing the Totobobo mask, I honestly feel a discernible difference between the Totobobo and other lesser masks I have worn. In short, the bottom line is the way I felt during and after the ride, as well as the before and after shots of the filter. While we do not have access to technology that assesses filter effectiveness on a chemical/molecular level, the mask seemed to perform as it was intended to perform. Overall, the performance was solid, and is an excellent choice for those concerned about air quality.

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Indonesia cyclist share experience

Indonesia cyclist testing the street pollution by checking the Totobobo filter after riding in the traffic

Indonesia cyclist testing the street pollution by checking the Totobobo filter after riding in the traffic

Translation by Google:
In connection with the many discussions about air quality in Jakarta, moved their hearts to know how the hell the air quality in Jakarta this.
One day I bought a mask totobobo, and idly opened its website. In the website there totobobo blog written by two French people who travel around the world by bike, in every country where they singgahi mereke meberi lecture on air quality.

In the blog they will, they also compared the experience of cycling in the cities they pass by comparing how dirty totobobo filter masks they wore. Filter masks are compared after they were cycling for at least 6 hours in the cities they will be. In each city, they use a new mask filter, and so on. This reference links to his In this blog can be compared to a mask filter impurities used in India, Bangkok and China.

Inspired by the blog above, I conducted personally kecil2an test.
His tests conducted by:

-cycling and wear a mask for a month totobobo
-In the month is used as much as 4 times (3 times a day week, Saturday 1 times)
Cycling-Line: Tarogong – Jl Metro Pondok Indah – Jl. Margaguna – Jl Radio Dalam – Jalan Metro – Road sudirman – Jalan Thamrin – Monas – Thamrin Turn back again – so as to Tarogong again.
-Range biking: At 7 am left Jam – Best Jam Tarogong late until 9:30 in the morning. Every time Gowes time approximately 1 hour to 1.5 hours.

Well this is the result. Figure below shows the level of dirtiness of his two filter masks

dirty filters from Indonesia

dirty filters from Indonesia

Figure below shows a comparison between the new filter and that was used

clean vs dirty filter

clean vs dirty filter

The next image shows the inner defilements tinggkat filter (the filter is located inside the mask)

the inside of the filter

the inside of the filter

That is a personal test that I do. I’m not going to make any conclusions from the results they will be because I am not an expert on air quality. I leave assessment to friends as well

-Test is done by not using standard scientific methods you know about the air testing, therefore the results can not be used as a standard for judging that the test subject.
-This test is a personal test, not a formal test.


How does a mask protect you from haze?

Haze in Singapore

Haze in Singapore

The haze is back in Singapore, fuelled by raging fires in Sumatra. Thursday’s PSI was the highest recorded here in almost two years. Experts here said on Thursday the haze might linger over Singapore for a while, due to the prevailing south-west monsoon season conditions, which typically last till late October. If the situation worsen, put on a mask when you go out may be a good way to protect yourselves. Do take note if you do use a mask:

If a mask can not seal your face, it can not protect you from the haze.

Haze is an atmospheric phenomenon when airborn particles such as dust, smoke and other particles obscure the clarity of the sky. The haze particle are very fine and easily get breathe into your lung by following the air flow.

Buoyant haze particle follow the “passage of least resistance”. The working principle of a mask is to seal off the breathing zone such that the least resistant path through the mask is the filter. Air must go through the filters before it can reach the breathing zone. The particle is trapped on the filters and therefore the air is cleaned before entering your mouth or nose.

Regular surgical mask or even N95 mask won’t help if there is gaps between the mask and your face. A gap between the face and the mask is an alternative passage with less resistance than the filter. Air and the particle will leak through the gap rather than going through the filter. One of the key concern when using a regular mask is how can one decide if the mask is truly fitting and sealing the breathing zone?

Here in Totobobo mask we provide the possibility for you to check the fit through the transparent mask. You can adjust the position, the tension of the strap, or even cut the mask to make it better fit to your face. Although we can not guarantee it will fit everyone, yet the chances of fitting is much higher than a regular mask.

In addition, judging by the colour change you will be able to tell when the filter has done it’s job and should be replaced.

For demonstration, here is a pair of filter kindly provided by Kenneth Koh of Advanturenomad. He use the Totobobo mask during his cycling trip in Vietnam. The colour collected on the mask is the result of nearly 30 hours of cycling in Vietnam from Hanoi to Dalat.

Used filter after 28 hours of cycling in Vietnam

Used filter after 28 hours of cycling in Vietnam

Pollution inside – Bus vs Plane

“It’s the best mask I’ve tried so far.”

Allan Hansen – Califonia, USA

Allan Hansen, CA, USA

Allan Hansen, CA, USA

Allen travel a lot and want to protect himself when he is in cities with heavy air pollution. He tried the TOTOBOBO mask and it appears to be the best mask he has tried so far. He ordered a bunch for his family because TOTOBOBO mask can fit the small faces of his children too.

As a traveler, pollution can exit in the most unexpected place. If it is not because of my previous research for a post (Say no to to pollution in school bus). I wouldn’t suspect there can be polluted air circulating inside a deluxe, aircond tourist coach.

Two weeks ago I took a SVIP coach from Singapore to Cameron Highlands. The seats inside this coach are large and the back can be lowered to almost flat- just nice for a good night sleep. The soft velvet feels comfy but I was curious to find out the air quality inside the bus.

I put on my mask during the overnight trip. We were required to get off the bus when crossing the border, and there were a couple of pee-stops during the night. I took off my mask when I need to get out of the bus and put it back on when I am getting back in.

After 6 hours of use

After 6 hours of use

When we reach Cameron Highland it was 7am in the morning, I was shocked to discover the gray patch collected on the filters- a clear indication of air pollution inside the coach, most likely from its own engine! The air quality along the route up Cameron Highlands at that time should be very clean.

To make sure I was not making this up, I decided to compare the result on a plane trip. I put on the mask with a clean set of filters on a business trip to Frankfurt. When I reach there after 12 hours, I can not see any noticeable sign of dirt. To be very sure about this, I put the same mask on during my flight back. Now it accumulated a total 24 hours of use in the plane. Judging from the color of the filter it is still very clean.

My conclusion? The air inside that coach is MUCH worst than the air inside the plane. It seems the air filter on plane is much more effective than those on buses, if the buses have any air filter at all.

24 hours of use in a plane

24 hours of use in a plane

Read more:
TOTOBOBO, the fitting mask for children
How to customize TOTOBOBO mask?
Advanced features of TOTOBOBO mask

Does smaller particle always penetrate filters easier?

Common sense would suggest smaller particle always penetrate filter easier. But this is not always, as state in the FAQ of CDC site:

1. How effective are the Part 84 filter respirators against particles smaller than 0.3 micrometer in diameter?

The 0.3-micrometer diameter used in the certification testing is approximately the most penetrating particle size for particulate filters. Although it seems contrary to expectation, smaller particles do not penetrate as readily as 0.3-micrometer particles. Therefore, these respirators will filter all other particle sizes at least as well as the certified efficiency level.

2. How effective are the Part 84 filter respirators against asbestos fibers or other rod-shaped particles?

Although fibers or rod-shaped particles may have very small cross-sectional diameters relative to their lengths, the Part 84 particulate filter respirators will be at least as efficient against this particle shape as the certified efficiency level.

CDC is right, this is contrary to expectation. The reasons is explained in another document in more details. Here is a diagram from pg. 9 of the document showing there are actually four different collection mechanisms govern particulate air filter performance: inertial impaction, interception, diffusion, and electrostatic attraction:

4 different collection mechanisms of particulate filters

The first three of these mechanisms apply mainly to mechanical filters and are influenced by particle size.

  • Impaction occurs when a particle traveling in the air stream and passing around a fiber, deviates from the air stream (due to particle inertia) and collides with a fiber.
  • Interception occurs when a large particle, because of its size, collides with a fiber in the filter that the air stream is passing through.
  • Diffusion occurs when the random (Brownian) motion of a particle causes that particle to contact a fiber.
  • Electrostatic attraction, the fourth mechanism, plays a very minor role in mechanical filtration. After fiber contact is made, smaller particles are retained on the fibers by a weak electrostatic force.

Impaction and interception are the dominant collection mechanisms for particles greater than 0.2 ?m, and diffusion is dominant for particles less than 0.2 ?m. The combined effect of these three collection mechanisms results in the classic collection efficiency curve, shown in the following Figure:

Fractional collection efficiency versus particle

The TOTOBOBO filters is a type of electrostatic filters which contain electrostatically enhanced fibers. Such fibers actually attract the particles to the fibers, in addition to retaining them. Electrostatic filters rely on charged fibers to dramatically increase collection efficiency for a given pressure drop across the filter.

Following table gives a rough idea of how small a micron is:

Substance Micro-meters (microns) Inch
90% of Wood smoke particles are smaller than 1 micron 0.00004
Bacteria (average) 2 0.00008
Red Blood Cell 8 0.0003
Talcum Powder 10 0.0004
White Blood Cell 25 0.001
Human Hair 70 0.003
Grain of Table Salt 100 0.004

Read more:

Used filters from India

Cycling through Asia without pollution

Herve and Goska of Develotour pioneered an interesting way to measure and visualize air pollution. On a yearlong bicycle trek across the continent, the couple traveled through several Asian countries. They visited a number of major Asian metropolises and experienced firsthand their respective air qualities. In each locale they wore TOTOBOBO filtration masks to protect their lungs from the polluted air. Every six hours they changed the filter. By the end of their trip they had a visual demonstration of the relative air quality of the cities they had visited, thanks to the filter in their TOTOBOBO mask.

Across the Indian subcontinent and southeast Asia, air quality was horrifically poor, in cities and the countryside alike. Airborne particulates, even when not plainly visible, abounded. Without the masks breathing was laborious, but with the TOTOBOBO mask breathing the polluted air was much more comfortable.
For extended periods of time the mask was comfortable even during the intense workout of a day-long bike ride. One downside (due largely to the high humidity of the climate) was the accumulation of moisture inside the mask.

Cycling in sand storm

Displayed below is an image of the air filters from various cities on their journey. Those particles that remained in the filter would have entered Herve and Goskas lungs without proper filtration. The gradation in filthiness indicates the grave state of air pollution in the given cities. Without protective masks, continuous exposure to poor air quality causes serious pulmonary diseases and disorders. In China and India especially, where horrific air quality meets the worlds greatest populations, this is a matter of great concern.
After their trip Herve and Goska spread air pollution awareness by lecturing to university and grade school students about the state of air quality across the worlds most populated regions:

Filter visualize air pollution across Asia


How to choose a pollution mask for cyclist?

How to clean TOTOBOBO mask for reuse?

Beijing: dirty on the outside, clean on the inside?

The Bangalore test

Your masks are very useful in India, thanks!