London cyclist Claire tested Totobobo mask with shocking results

Thanks to the introduction of Andreas from London Cyclist Blog, I got in touch with Claire , she was looking for a better pollution mask to cycle in London. Claire want to use Totobobo mask to help her to cut out the air pollution during her daily 12 mile commuting. After using it for a more than a month, she was happy with the performance of Totobobo and can really recommend it.

Here is Claire’s detail report:

At the beginning of April I was suffering with a sore throat that was worse in the morning and evening – a trip to see my GP confirmed that it was a reaction to London pollution that I was sucking in during my 12 mile commute twice a day.

I had previously and sporadically used a Respro mask which is the only anti-pollution mask that I’ve found in the UK – but I used it sporadically because it has several big drawbacks for me:

My experience of using Respro mask

1. The mask itself is pretty big on a girl’s face and can chafe my skin. It’s like wearing a muzzle and covers most of my face, plus the velcro is very strong and keeps getting caught in my hair.

2. Even using the ‘sports’ filter makes it exceptionally difficult to breathe in sufficient amounts of air when going at speed, leaving me heaving like a fish out of water.

3. The amount of condensation produced inside the mask is incredible – after a couple of miles at a decent pace, my nose felt as though it was submerged, and when breathing hard, condensation was projected out of the mask – when going fast it occasionally splattered all over my shades!

So, in desperation I emailed the London Cyclist blog and asked Andreas if anyone had any ideas about alternatives – then he put me in touch with Totobobo.

Totobobo sent me 2 different masks, the Classic and the SuperCool – both made of very lightweight soft rubber with 2 small round white filters that sit on either side of the face. The masks come with instructions on how to cut the rubber to suit your face – initially I was a little concerned about cutting too much of my Classic away, but eventually after much cautious trimming I fashioned a mask that covered my mouth and nose and felt comfortable.

Riding home with it on was interesting – people in London are generally used to seeing cyclists wearing Respro masks and resembling Darth Vader, but here I was looking as though I had forgotten to take off my surgical mask. I got loads of odd looks and questions about how good it was.

The answer is that I highly recommend Totobobo (apart from the name, which is impossible to make anyone understand whilst actually wearing it!). When I got home I checked the filters and was amazed to see that even in 30 minutes the pristine white had turned to sludgy grey – I am quite horrified by this amount of pollution in London – I only wear each pair of filters for 2 or 3 days, by which time they are nearly black. With the Respro mask, until you’ve worn it for a couple of months you just don’t see any change of colour and probably don’t replace the filter when you should.

There is a little condensation produced by both the Classic and SuperCool, but the SuperCool doesn’t cover your nose, so there’s even less with that one. The thin straps fit behind your ears and afford a surprisingly secure fit and there’s a alternative strap that fits both masks but is a little more complicated than just fitting around your ears.

There are also different filters – a matrix filter and 2 different grades of particulate filter – 94% and 96% – both are easy to breathe through and the 96% gives a slightly higher grade protection from particulates.

So, in summary, buy a Totobobo and breathe easy – I’ve discovered just how horrifying London pollution is, and I value my lungs. Since I have been using my Totobobo my sore throat has disappeared – that makes me happy!

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My Health in Beijing by medical blogger Dr. Richard Saint Cyr

My Health in Beijing by medical blogger Dr. Richard Saint Cyr

Real World Testing

I tried it around town for a bit, and the overall comfort is good. It definitely is less awkward-looking than the typical N95 with exhalation valves. I was pleasantly surprised with the seal and that my glasses didn’t fog up, although I got those mask lines on my face that other masks also cause. It’s relatively easy to keep on, with straps either behind the ear or behind the head (which always provides a closer fit).

I didn’t do any fancy technical testing with it, but on a bad, smelly day I put on the mask and instantly could no longer smell that pollution.

Also, there are a few other real-world advantages:

It’s not totally uncool-looking
It’s reusable and washable, and it’s easy to carry in a pouch (provided by them)
There are kids sizes
You can quickly cut the mask to fit better
The masks and filter refills are very reasonably priced

My Bottom Line

Totobobo didn’t pay me anything, and I get no income from them for this mention. I’m simply trying to find well-researched options to protect myself and anyone else from Beijing’s air pollution, and I’d be more than happy to review other masks as well and to publish the results. Last year I tried to find good studies on other brands, including Respro, but I found no well-designed studies on other masks. Does anyone have such information?

I think Totobobo is a good and affordable option for people. And a 135-fold drop in pollution is very impressive; even on an emergency day with the AQI over 500, the mask would bring your air to WHO-safe levels.

Member of Medical code of conduct

DR. RICHARD SAINT CYR is a member of "Medical code of conduct"

Testing 9 types of air filters with a laser particle counter

The filter is the most important component of a respirator. The quality of air that gets into your lung is determined by the quality of the filter, provided there is a good seal between the mask and your face.

The design of Totobobo mask makes it quite easy to replace the filter with any flat, air permeable material. It is tempting to use a “filter look-a-like” such as cotton wool or a piece of felt to replace the used filters. Does it work? I am interested to find out how effective these different alternatives are.

A Dylos laser particle counter is used to collect objective data. The particle counter is affordable and performs consistently. I’m using the Pro version which is able to detect two fine particle sizes: 0.5 and 2.5 microns. The particle counter has an air-inlet and a exhaust vent. Air drawn into the counter goes through a passage and there is a laser diode and an optical counter along the air passage. If the air inlet is covered by a piece of filter, air drawn into the unit will be filtered and therefore produce a lower particle count reading. The performance of the filter can be calculated by dividing the ambient particle count value with the “filtered” value. For example, if the particle count drops to half, the protection factor of that particular filter is 2.

Laser Particle Counter

Dylos Laser Particle Counter

The method is simple and easy to understand. First of all the ambient particle counts is measured against two different particle sizes – 0.5 microns and 2.5 microns. Different types of “filters” are used to cover the air inlet (edge seal with tapes) one after another. Reading of each filter is obtained after 2 minutes when the value stabilized. Finally, the ambient particle count is once again measured without any filters. The first reading without the filter and the last reading are within 5% tolerance.

Laser Particle Counter reading without filter

Laser Particle Counter reading without filter

Protection factor (P) of each filter is calculated by the formula:

P = Qi / Qn

Where Qi is the value of ambient particle count without filters and Qn is the particle count of the filter concerned. Higher P value indicates better protection factor.

The Totobobo filter (low cost anti-pollution filter) produces a high protection factor of 5564/587 = 9.5 (for 0.5 microns) and 184/10 = 18.4 (for 2.5 microns). This figure indicates a high filtration efficiency of over 90%, effectively raise air quality from “VERY POOR” to “FAIR”.

Totobobo mask filter test

test reading of Totobobo filter

Surgical mask is commonly used, the problem is getting a good seal. In this test, we seal the surgical mask filter media over the inlet to measure the filter effectiveness. As expected the protection value is not very high: P=2.9 for 0.5 microns, P=4.8 for 2.5 microns.

surgical mask filter test

test reading of surgical mask filter

As a reference, the filter of a Respro City mask is also tested. The result is disappointingly poor: P=2.2 for 0.5 microns, P=3.1 for 2.5 microns. I am shocked since this product was reported some years ago to be among the “top performers”. I checked several times to make sure the readings are correct. It may be possible that my sample is dated (over a year old). I will update this record if new evident is found to prove this results wrong.

Respro City mask filter test

test reading of City mask filter

Magiclean is cheap and commonly available and it’s working principle is based on static charge in the fibre, a characteristic of Totobobo filter. I expect it shell produce reasonable good performance. However, the result of 4 layers of Magiclean wiper is the worst out of the lot: P= 1.6 for 0.5 microns, P=2.2 for 2.5 microns.

Magiclean dry wiper sheet test

test reading of Magiclean dry wiper sheet

Facial pad is probably the most commonly used “replacement filter” since some of them available in similar dimension as Totobobo filter. The result of the test is: P=2.4 for 0.5 micron, P=3.5 for 2.5 micron. This is slightly better than the result from the Respro filter.

Facial pads test

test reading of Facial pads

Finally a benchmark test was performed against the well know 3M 8210 N95 filter. However, as the air resistance is too high, we need to enlarge the total surface area and we manage to seal the enlarged area around the inlet. The performance of this filter is remarkable: P=12.8 for 0.5 micron, P=33 for 2.5 micron, highest of the lot. The only problem with this material is the air flow resistant. It is more difficult to breathe through.

Protection factor (higher better)

Totobobo anti-pollution filter
Totobobo 94% filter
Totobobo 96% filter
Surgical mask
Respro City filter
Respro Techno Gold filter
Magiclean wiper
Facial pad
3M 8210 N95 (enlarged area)
0.5 micro
2.5 micro
test results of 9 types of filters

test results of 8 types of filters: higher figure = better performance

Note: these tests are intended to compare relative protection factors between different filters. These test results are not calibrated to various manufacturer’s standard or NIOSH.


3M 8210 N95 and Totobobo are the only two filters provide real protection factor above 9.5. These results is consistent with the finding of a study done in the Chinese University of Hong Kong (Prince of Wales Hospital). However, the air resistance of the 3M 8210 filter is too high and is not suitable to be used with Totobobo mask.
All other alternative filters are considerably less protective.

I managed to get my hands on a new Respro Techno Gold filter and tested it with the laser particle counter. The result is much more promising than the Sport filter. In addition, I also tested the Totobobo 94% and 96% filter to complete the picture. The 94% is the 2nd best performer for 0.5 micron and slightly less protective than the 3M 8210 filter for 2.5 microns. The Totobobo 96% is the best filter so far. Added a chart for easy comparison.

read more :
Cyclist, protect your lung when riding in the city
How to change Totobobo filter?

12 useful features of Totobobo mask for cyclist

“My girlfriend Sarah and I have been using and very much enjoying the anti-pollution Totobobo masks in New Delhi – India. I want to say thanks… The radio taxis here have gone wacko and so we are spending a lot more time in rickshaws. I used to have a very bad cough and had to take allergy medicine but it seems to have resolved itself! no more medicine – no more coughs. ” – Sam

Personal experience is critical for the development of innovative technology. I cycle to work daily, and this allows me opportunity to test a number of different safety masks. These provide me with first hand evaluation of products from a cyclist’s perspective. Gathering input from other cyclists and working with their feedback helps take into account alternative climates and riding issues. All in all, I have found that the demands of a cyclist are many and, at times, contradictory. Here are a few:

Breathing versus Protection:
Cyclists need to breathe heavily, but the resistance through a protective filter can uncomfortable and increase strain. A filter with low air resistance would be better, but would be less effective in filtering. Most filters with high protection levels are difficult to breathe through, making finding the goldilocks zone of filtration and “breatheability” critical.

Heat Dissipation:
In a cycling workout blood is pumped vigorously through the body and heat is generated. A mask that traps heat is a major problem, because it reduces the intake of oxygen and makes breathing more difficult. Unfortunately, most masks on the market are heat-traps.

Easy on, easy off:
If only part of one’s commute involves heavy traffic and wearing a mask, why not wear it as needed? A well-designed mask should take this into account. The user should be able to remove and replace the mask with ease while cycling.

Additional weight to carry while riding is a nuisance. Protective masks should be compact and lightweight. This makes bringing the mask and using the mask more likely and easier to do.

But rather than drone on further, let me cut to the chase and explain TOTOBOBO’s 12 features relevant to cyclists:

1) Powerful filter: Breathe as easily as not wearing a mask. With the TOTOBOBO filter, air moves freely while still capturing at least 94% of pollutants.

2) Fold flat: Compact and portable, the TOTOBOBO mask is no burden to carry around when not in use. Just fold it up and stick in your pocket.

3) Lightweight: Only 20g, unparalleled among reusable facial protection.

4) Low profile: The mask itself is only .5mm thick, like a second skin over your nose and mouth. It is nonintrusive, and can be worn with glasses or a helmet with no problems.

5) Comfortable strap: Less tension, more comfort. The unique, flexible strap may look flimsy but is surprisingly strong. The mask requires little tension to keep firmly in place with this plastic strap.

6) One hand on/off: With one hand you can take the mask off or put it back on while never stopping the bike.

7) Active valve: The mask acts as a one-way valve; as you breathe, so does the mask.

8) Raised structure: The mask’s design keeps the filter fibers away from your mouth and nose.

9) Customized fit: One mask fits all. The mask adapts to any face shape or size.

10) Anti-viral: A silver ion anti-viral agent stops any virus from growing on the mask, and lasts as long as the mask does.

11) Washable and reusable: Washable with soap and water. Easy and safe.

12) Transparent: The clear masks allows easy adjustment and checking of an optimal seal.

TOTOBOBO is the most comfortable mask on the market for cyclists, but it is by no means perfect. If you are considering using it, be aware of moisture trapping and potential fogging of your glasses. These can be mitigated by tightening the upper strap and loosening the lower strap, or, when exhaling, closing your mouth to break the seal below the chin, allowing the trapped moisture to escape.

Have you used a TOTOBOBO mask before? Have I missed anything?


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