Do your P3 dust and pollution face masks make you look like Darth Vader
Let me preface this review by saying ‘it’s nigh on impossible to find P3 dust and pollution face masks that doesn’t make you look like Darth Vader and feel like a complete chump’ when you’re out in public.
That said unless you do wear an FFP3 mask for everyday use you’re running the risk of catching something nasty, especially COVID-19. With that in mind COVID-19 makes walking around in a Darth Vader outfit seem very attractive, and the better option.
I’m going to jump in and look at three masks we think are going to do a good job of protecting you, but before I do I’d just like to give you a little historical overview of face masks.
Until recently, February of 2020 to be exact, FFP3 face masks weren’t really on anyone’s radar except for people who wore them for a specific purpose:
Doctors, nurses and anyone else in the medical professions who work in close proximity to people with diseases that are highly contagious or in labs working with dangerous pathogens.
People who worked in factories where dust was produced; these guys have to contend with everything from sawdust to Asbestos and gas.
And firemen and women who have to deal with deadly amounts of smoke together with the toxicity that comes with it.
So, completely off our radar until February this year, 2020, when reality came crashing in and a mad scramble for face masks started.
Firstly, there weren’t any and then there was a flood of face masks from every corner of the planet.
Secondly, at the beginning, and even now to some extent, there was no real advice regarding what kind of protection you need against
COVID-19 so people were at the mercy of what have become known as ‘rogue traders’.
And because of the so-called rogue traders who make ridiculous claims about face masks being a wonder cure all for all known diseases, it’s pretty hard to find a decent face mask on any of the leading e-commerce channels like Amazon. Even the big advertising platforms like Google and Facebook have banned any face mask advertising for fear of showing misleading adverts and getting sued.
We’ve trawled the Internet looking for masks with an FFP3 rating. This is the top rating for face masks and masks with this rating stop 99.99% of all particles (the 3 comes from .03 microns, the smallest particle size the mask filter stops) and come up with some alternatives.
They’re not the most stylish or fashionable but we don’t think you’ll feel like Darth Vader when you’re wearing them, just a little Iron Man maybe?
The daddy of them all, the ubiquitous 3M dust mask, has been around for many years. These FFP3 masks are recommended by WHO for outbreaks of diseases like SARS, Avian flu and Coronavirus. The face mask has a face sealing membrane so nothing can get either in or out of the seal on your face. It’s got an exhalation valve that reduces moisture, stops heat build up and extends the amount of time you can wear the mask, the valve also stops your glasses steaming up.
Although it is the gold standard in terms of protection due to it’s FFP3 rating and face seal membrane it is a little Darth Vaderish and is disposable so could prove expensive in the long term.
At the time of writing this mask seems to be out of stock everywhere we looked online.
With it’s soft lightweight fabric and traditional cup shape, the Alpha Solway 9030V FFP3 dust mask, like the 3M, offers great working comfort. The filter material provides respiratory protection against very fine, toxic dusts, mists and fumes, while the metal nose-clip allows you to adjust the fit while you work. Again like the 3M, it’s got an inbuilt exhalation valve that helps to reduce the build-up of heat and moisture to further improve the wearers comfort.
But, and there’s always a but, it’s disposable and may prove expensive in the long run, and it’s got two straps, one that goes across the upper part of your head, and one that goes below the ears. We’ve tried these masks before and I have to say the two strap configuration is a devil to get right and avoid tangled hair and all manner of other horribleness.
What makes the Arco stand out from its competitors is the rather snazzy Yellow mesh outer. The mesh forms a semi-rigid structure with a preformed nose bridge to keep it from slipping down as masks of this type often do. Like it’s competitors, the Alpha Solway and 3M, other than the mesh outer the face mask is of fabric construction with two elasticated straps to hold the mask on. We have tried this mask and the preformed nose bridge does work very well at stopping the mask slipping down. Whilst the two straps are difficult to get right, the same two straps are better than one at keeping the mask on.
But, again it’s disposable so could prove costly in the long run.
At last a mask you don’t have to throw away (you just throw the filters away) and boy does it make a difference; you no longer need to worry about carrying a packet of masks in your car or bag.
This is an unusual mask as it’s really the only face mask we’ve found that makes any effort at style. It is an FFP3 mask giving 99.99% protection but at the same time is a lot more ‘Iron Man’ than ‘Darth Vader’.
It’s got a moulded elastomer face piece that fits over the nose and mouth with a very good fit that also holds the replaceable filter. The filter is good for 24 hours use so should be good for around two weeks of average wear. The company claims that it’s so comfortable you can wear it for 8 consecutive hours.
The face piece sits inside a fancy looking Neoprene harness (washable) that goes over the nose and mouth and is attached at the back of the neck with a very secure and comfortable fit.
The filters are a proprietary technology called Hepac-Lite that also features in many other high operations that require top of the line filtering. The filters offer the highest level of protection, FFP3, and ultra low breathing resistance.
These also have an exhaust valve, but this one faces downwards for extra protection.
99%+ filtration efficiency – Hepac-Lite filter technology for highest particulate protection & ultra-low breathing resistance – Fibreglass free.
Protection against – Airborne Particles, Fumes, Oil Aerosols, Bacteria & Viruses.
Detachable washable Black neoprene harness with mesh area over filter for ultra-low breathing.
Medical grade moulded facepiece for ultimate face seal offering highest protection.
Downward facing exhaust valve – no misting or steaming of goggle