Awesome Trio of Pollution Mask Tests: The Winners and Losers

Source: CDC PHILAny long-time reader of mine knows that I’ve repeatedly lamented the dearth of independent evidence regarding pollution masks. But now I finally have good news: since last month, two excellent mask comparison reports from consumer groups in China have been published, and many (but not all) of the questions I have had are now answered. Along with a third test from last autumn which I’ve already blogged about, these three reviews collectively give us the best guidance we’ve ever had about which masks are effective against PM2.5. All three reports are quite large and very thorough, testing dozens of models for fit, exhalation and leakage. One from last month is from another Shanghai consumers group which tested 38 masks, including Lvdun绿盾. But the granddaddy report is from the China Consumer’s Association which tested 37 masks, including Totobobo. The CCA is the team behind the annual March 15th consumers day. I sense that their report is as close as we’re going to get to an “official” independent Consumer Reports-style review. All three are only in Chinese so I’ve tried to translate and summarize the major findings below — many of which will surprise you.

The clear winners

If you look across all three reports, a couple of brands stand out. 3M definitely was a consistent performer in almost any category, and certainly remains my personal gold standard for masks. For example in the CCA tests below, almost every 3M tested received a full 5 stars for filtration过滤效果, the most important stat by far. But they also usually had top marks in resistance阻力 and leakage泄漏性. If you look at the second report last month from Shanghai, which has hard data on tested filtration efficiency 过滤效率实测值, 3M again does outstanding, getting 95% and above; the same goes for the third test from last year, again with filtration results over 95%.

3M definitely was a consistent performer in almost any category, and certainly remains my personal gold standard for masks. Another standout is the MASKin brand, which was just as solid as 3M in all three reports. Quite a few other brands also did well, but honestly as these were all Chinese brands that I don’t see around here, that data personally doesn’t help me too much. I think the take-home message here is that 3M is well known here in China, is now available in many places including 7-Eleven, and now has three independent reviews which prove not just effectiveness but comfort — and affordability. Plus, they have a slew of masks officially on the NIOSH list of N95-certified masks.

Another “winner” seems to be masks with exhalation valves, which usually performed well with filtration but especially in the other categories with improved resistance and decreased leakage. For what it’s worth, my current personal favorite mask is the disposable, foldable 3M 9001V which I grab from my local 7-Eleven. I find it very comfortable and effective, and the exhalation valve helpful. By the way, the 9001V straps go around the ears and not the head, and their filtration results were just as strong.

The clear losers

One famous Chinese brand, called Lvdun绿盾, was wildly popular last year but received decidedly mixed results in two tests. Their child’s size, the XS (绿盾PM2.5抗菌防尘口罩绿格XS秋冬塑料装), was a dangerous failure in the second report, filtering only 10%. Their washable adult masks tested only semi-adequately, with 65-86% efficiency in one study and only 2.5 stars (and no smiley face) in the CCA study. So I certainly wouldn’t recommend that brand at all, and given the disastrous results with the child size, I’m quite alarmed to see many children in China wearing this brand and being falsely protected. I certainly hope word spreads quickly to these parents.

Quite a few brands did miserably, with awful filtration and resistance, especially the cheaper, accordion-style surgical masks. All of this is clear proof that any mask that doesn’t fit well and allows air leakage is essentially worthless.

Reusable masks: The jury is still out

All three reports still didn’t test most of those most commonly used reusable masks in the expat community, including Vogmask, Respro and others. Only Totobobo was tested, and only in the CCA report — and it didn’t do so great. It only got a 3.5 out of 5 stars for filter efficiency, 4 out of 5 for resistance, and didn’t earn the smiley face for leakage. This is indeed a bit disturbing to me — but it’s just another clear shout out for even more independent testing.

In the meantime? To be quite honest, since I am a data geek and this is a HONCode-certified evidence-based blog, it’s now a bit difficult to really recommend any of those commercial, reusable brands at this time as a first choice. None of these are officially on the NIOSH-approved N95 list; none have any outstanding independent test results; only a few have outstanding fit test results but all of those are self-reported by the same companies that make the masks.

Clearly, if you follow the data, the best choices are obvious.

Study limitations

I certainly wish the CCA study provided more details, instead of a five point scale and happy faces — I want to see the raw data. And were these fit tests quantitative fit tests? How many samples of each? And with the second study, were the Totobobo masks cut down to size each face? What ages of children and how many tested the 绿盾XS? Having said all that, these certainly are major reviews which should help all of us make a bit clearer decisions about which mask to wear.

But we still have even more important questions to answer:

  • When should we wear these masks?
  • What ages should wear these masks?
  • How much will it protect our health, long term?

I suspect we will be waiting quite a few years for such WHO-level medical consensus and guidelines. I hope not, but I fear this will be the case. In the meantime, reports like these three are all we have.

 

REPORT #1: China Consumer’s Association 表2:比较试验对比结果表Comparison Tests (originals herehere and here)

标称品牌Brand name

标称样本Brand model

过滤效果Filter result

阻力Resistance

泄漏性Leakage

购买价格           (元/个)Price per mask (RMB)

阳光宜康

日用防护口罩

★★★★★

★★★☆

7.12

DELTAPLUS     代尔塔

自吸过滤式防颗粒物呼吸器

★★★★★

★★★☆

3

3M

自吸过滤式防颗粒物呼吸器随弃式面罩(口罩)无呼吸阀

★★★★★

★★★★

3.5

3M

9031颗粒物防护口罩

★★★★★

★★★★

3.96

每家玛

防尘口罩

★★★★★

★★★★

7.3

保为康POWECOM

新国际防尘口罩

★★★☆

★★★★★

1

IRIS爱丽思

爱丽思一次性立体防尘三层防护pm2.5口罩

★★★★

★★★★

1.9

3M

3M防尘口罩

★★★★★

★★★★

4.45

铭爱威

成人立体一次性口罩

★★★★

★★★

1.42

威尼

N95医用防护口罩

★★★★★

★★★☆

12.35

白元

一次性不织布口罩

★★★★

★★★★☆

2.71

海宁爱康

普通医用口罩

★★★

★★★★★

15

绿盾

PM2.5无纺防护口罩(成人型)

★★★★

★★★★

1.86

IRIS爱丽思

(无中文)

★★☆

★★★★★

3.99

适美佳

活性炭口罩

★★

★★★★★

0.58

爽蒂

一次性无纺布印花口罩(自吸过滤式防颗粒物呼吸器)

★★☆

★★★★☆

1.78

亲净

防霾抗菌口罩(一次性)

★★★★★

★★★★

3.3

稳健医疗

医用防护口罩

★★★★★

★★★★

8.5

3M

9332防护口罩

★★★★★

★★★★

33.9

MASKin

PM2.5专业防护口罩

★★★★★

★★★★

20

MASKin

617505防护口罩

★★★★★

★★★★★

7.6

JACKSON

自吸过滤式防颗粒呼吸器(非油性颗粒物防护口罩)

★★★★★

★★★★☆

5

DELTAPLUS     代尔塔

自吸过滤式防颗粒物呼吸器

★★★★★

★★★★☆

4.5

汤默臣

汤默臣PM2.5健康口罩

★★☆

★★★★

29.8

森浪

活性炭防护口罩

★★

★★★★

12.9

LifeVC

口罩PM2.5防尘抗菌口罩

★★☆

★★★☆

17

HL哈雷

哈雷舒适口罩

★★★

★★★★

24.9

绿盾

PM2.5抗菌防霾口罩

★★☆

★★★★

32

一罩绝尘

PM2.5口罩 防护型

★★☆

★★★★

32

华绣科技

纳米银抗菌抗病毒口罩

★★☆

★★★☆

27

维康Wecan

维康加厚保暖口罩

★★

★★

5

雪飞尔

雪飞尔时尚口罩

★★

★★★

2.5

雪花秀,        好姿尚

防尘、保暖口罩

★★

★★

6

3M

320D颗粒物呼吸防护套装

★★★★★

★★★☆

35            (滤棉2.95元/片)

totobobo

(无中文)

★★★☆

★★★★

199                (滤片11.9元/片)

CM朝美

舒适口罩

★★

★★★☆

25.5

CM朝美

9000型职业防尘口罩

★★★☆

★★★☆

2

过滤效率低于标准值、明示值和标识未标称执行标准滤料等级的产品名单

样品名称Sample Name

标称商标Brand

规格型号Model

生产日期/批号Testing date

过滤效率实测值Tested filtration efficiency(%)

防尘口罩

爽蒂

SD1076/KN95

2014.01.10.

26.3

随弃式口罩(一次性无纺布口罩)

爽蒂

SD3248/KN90

2013.09.25.

48.8

儿童口罩

爽蒂

SD2896

2013.12.26.

21.2

6002A职业防尘口罩(折叠式)

朝美

KN95

2013.09.02.

91.1

活性炭防护口罩

森浪

/

2013.04.10.

11.4

优至PM2.5防霾口罩

优至

180×95mm

2013.12.17./YZ13120000

65.9

无纺布口罩

啰啰

95mm×175mm

2013.04.11.

25.1

绿之源活性炭口罩

绿之源

175×90mm

2013.12.02.

7.1

适美佳活性炭口罩

适美佳

175mm×90mm

2013.11.16.

20.7

灭菌纱布口罩

skawamoto

成人型18cm×14cm×12层

有效期至20160513/SK06E13

9.2

普通涤纶防尘口罩

宜信

SC600C

2013.03./2013031801

0.0

绿盾PM2.5无纺口罩(成人型)

绿盾

/

2013.03.05.

64.3

绿盾PM2.5抗菌防霾口罩(轻薄透气型)

绿盾

绿盾PM2.5抗菌防尘口罩绿格F春夏纸盒装

2013.11.05.

86.3

绿盾PM2.5抗菌防霾口罩

绿盾

绿盾PM2.5抗菌防尘口罩绿格XS秋冬塑料装

2013.11.05.

10.3

竹炭健康口罩

健怡

/

2013.12.10.

47.6

舒适平面口罩

健怡

17.5cm×9cm

2013.08.28.

55.3

一次性平面五层无纺布口罩(成人5片装)

/

NPK-5PM

2013.11.26.

65.5

伊藤の良品PM2.5TM防护口罩

/

无纺布17cm×9.3cm×3层

2013.04.18.

17.0

伊藤の良品PM2.5TM防护口罩

/

23cm×14cm

失效日期:2016.11.02. 有效期;3年

10.7

防尘口罩(依恋防霾透气口罩)

依恋

/

/

16.6

名典上品四层活性炭口罩

名典上品

175×90mm

2013.04.10.

44.7

哈雷舒适口罩

哈雷

L型

/

16.8

一次性活性炭四层口罩

维康

/

/

37.7

竹炭防护口罩

维康

长18*宽7cm

/

12.8

哈雷舒适口罩

哈雷

15×12(正负0.5)厘米三岁以上儿童使用

/

21.4

自吸过滤式防颗粒物呼吸器 随弃式面罩(口罩) 无呼气阀

3M

9001/KN90

2013.05.20.

94.9

MASkin 活性炭粉尘口罩

MASkin

6135/5只/泡壳

2013.04.16.

95.0

N95型口罩

MASkin

8265/6只/彩盒

2013.04.16.

95.5

随弃式面罩

吉可

1500/KN95(带呼气阀)

2013.12.09.

97.9

自吸过滤式防颗粒物呼吸器 随弃式面罩(口罩) 无呼气阀

3M

9502/KN95

2013.08.09.

97.3

自吸过滤式防颗粒物呼吸器

乐求

SL-A II类 KN95

2014.01.10./14-006

97.3

自吸过滤式防颗粒物呼吸器

沪兰

JF-2-3型 KN90

2012.09.11.

99.9

自吸过滤式防颗粒物呼吸器

zhongzhi

ZH3031

2014.01.24.

95.0

自吸过滤式防颗粒物呼吸器

安适达

5210

2013.03.01.

96.6

自吸过滤式防颗粒物呼吸器

地球

1068型/随弃式面罩

2013.05.

96.7

杯型口罩

朝美

8011-1/KN95

/

96.4

自吸过滤式防颗粒物呼吸器 无呼气阀

LACKSON SAFETY

63201 KN90

2013.05.13.

95.3

亲净TM儿童口罩

亲净

87*145(±5)mm

2013.07.05.

97.4

Report #3: From Shanghai Consumer Rights Protection Commission: their article; their raw data (Excel file); my earlier review here); my edited/translated data below:

Highest Rated Disposable Masks
Highest Rated Disposable Masks

 

Worst Rated Disposable Masks
Worst Rated Disposable Masks

 


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20 thoughts on “Awesome Trio of Pollution Mask Tests: The Winners and Losers”

  1. Hello, and thanks for this great information. My family is moving to New Delhi in August so I’m looking to buy some good masks for myself, husband, and two boys (6 and 8). I see that you think 3M makes some great products but I’m having trouble matching up the “model” numbers with what I can buy on Amazon. Is there any chance you can help me figure out which model to order on Amazon? Thanks in advance for any help you can provide!! Best, Leah

    1. The 3M model numbers should be the same in all countries; you also can read a recent 3M document which lists which models they feel are the best masks for pollution: http://t.cn/8spBe9M

  2. Dear Dr. Cyr,

    今天在Quora上知道了您和您的blog,读了很多您的文章,受益匪浅。

    我也是每天骑车上下班,之前带过Repro和3M9322,感觉效果一般,不知是心理作用还是什么原因。
    现在换成了3M 6001防毒面具,有过滤盒和防尘棉,防护效果确实很好,但是呼吸阻力很大,感觉不太舒服。

    我想请教您,戴这种防毒面具骑车是否对身体有害?因为感觉吸氧不够。
    我的单次骑行时间是30分钟。

    另外戴repro和3M口罩能闻到汽车尾气味,这种口罩过滤后的气味对身体的危害大吗?

    谢谢。

    您用中文或者英文回答都可以:)

    1. Hi, it is difficult for many bikers to find a mask which works well but also lets them breathe as well. I would think a mask with the exhalation valve would be important when exercising. I would stick with 3M brand that has exhalation valves like your 9322. The 6001 sounds too intense. Perhaps you could try other 3M masks with valves like the 8210 or 8822, the cup versions here on 3M’s official Tmall store http://3m.tmall.com/ By the way, this week I did my own testing and the Respro Techno for me wasn’t so great, only 85%, worse than all three of the 3M masks I tried. In terms of safety, exercise in almost all cases still is a lot better for your heart than no exercise at all. But if your mask makes you breathe a lot deeper and isn’t so effective in the first place, then it may actually do more harm than good.

      1. Thanks, now I agree with you that 3M is the best choice. Beijing’s air pollution is really a challenge for me, I will learn more from your blog. Wish you and your baby healthy:)

    1. All of their 9000 series are about the same, all are rated 90% and the only difference may be size, exhalation valves, and loops around the ear or head. All are really good and quite cheap.

  3. Hello
    I am in Xiamen and can’t seem to find the N95 3M masks around where I live, do you know any places that has it? Thanks

  4. For the 3M 9041, as one of the few 3M models with activated carbon or charcoal (addressing more than particulates) tested here on the Shanghai Consumer Rights Protection list, I’m wondering whether you’ve any experience with this model? Its KN90 level filtration, though less than N95, may be the trade-off the urban pollution mask user makes when attempting to filter a broader range of substances (if it’s correct here to infer this carbon mask can address some or all of the following to some extent: 1. particulate matter, 2. ozone (O3), 3. sulfur dioxide (SO2), 4. nitrogen dioxide (NO2), 5. carbon monoxide (CO).

    1. I’m not familiar with that model. I suppose it might make sense to get a mask that covers other chemicals but again, all the research is focused on PM. And until (if ever) I see research showing those other chemicals are more important, then I would stick with N95, not even N90 masks, as the most evidence-based we have at this moment. Certainly on horrible days like now, I wouldn’t mess around with an N90 and probably just use my N99.

    1. I think every independent test I’ve seen has proven that 3M at least matches what they claim and usually do even better. It’s again why I would always use them as a dependable first line. Compare this to many other mask companies which make efficiency claims far more than they actually are.

  5. Signed up for China tour group in April 2015….I had lung cancer surgery, so only have my right lung; also two low immunity factors, type 2 Diabetes, use 2 inhalers daily. I am now reading the AQI reports; I gather I am in ‘the easily affected’ group. If I was your patient, and you are in China with firsthand experience, would you advise me to cancel the tour and see China on the big screen instead? Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi Wendy, I really can’t be offering medical opinions to people without seeing them in person. But my instinct is that anyone with only one lung, and thus less than 50% lung capacity, and also on inhalers is simply too high a risk given potential problems here. I would run it by your pulmonologist and family doctor as well.

      1. Thank you for your reply. I am reading the air quality reportts daily now, and I also reviewed those of April 2014, the month of my proposed trip in 2015, and I see no improvements and no policy adjustments being announced, except when some international group is meeting in China. You have confirmed my doubts, along with your opinion in general and that of my personal physicians, that I am best to view China not in person. Many thanks again.

        I shall pass on your detailed masks information to those that I know who will be taking the tour that I am cancelling. I suspect that many will be shocked at the necessity for such, not just in Bejing, as was presented by the tour guide. Thank you for this also.

      2. I certainly wouldn’t want to put off people to come to China and have a wonderful vacation, it’s just that people need to be prepared. And I always worry most about those travelers who are at higher risk of short-term pollution spikes: young children, anyone with severe lung or heart disease, and the elderly, as the biggest categories…

  6. My husband and I are moving to Tianjin next month and I am just wondering if you might know where we can get 3M masks once we are there? We have absolutely no ability to speak Chinese (although we are hoping to pick up a few words once we are living in China) and are not really sure where to start. We are living in Abu Dhabi at present and have been trying to find 3M masks here with no luck to date. Do hope you can help. Thank you. Perhaps they stock them in local 7/11’s in Tianjin, just worrying about whether they are the ‘real deal’.

    1. I don’t see the most important test result: fit test results. I always look for that; these lab test results on that page just don’t mean anything to me without real life results on people’s faces. That’s why I’d still stick with masks that have those results…

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