Please Help Test Pollution Masks For Kids and Adults

Vogmask children N95 pollution maskUPDATE, MARCH 15: this project is now on hold (details here)

Are you bewildered and overwhelmed by all of the choices for air pollution masks? Don’t you wish you could look at independent test results which compared all of them? Soon you can — because I’m getting these tests myself. Totobobo, Vogmask, Respro, Lvdun 绿盾 — at least 45 of the big names and popular choices will be tested, and I will share the data with the world via my blog and my New York Times column. But I need your help. I need to raise the funds using the Rally.org crowdfunding website here to purchase the masks and pay for fit-testing, and I hope you and others can help pitch in.

Background

I have lived in Beijing for over seven years, working as a family medicine doctor at an international clinic and also helping to improve public health across China via my wellness blog, social media, and health articles. I am also a first time daddy with an amazing son who just celebrated his first birthday, and I am acutely aware of the hazards of air pollution to children and adults. I am convinced that a good air pollution mask can effectively decrease our exposure to PM2.5  (read my blog here, here and here)I see many choices for masks on the market now, but I am sure that quite a few aren’t nearly as effective as people think.  Many mask companies are bragging that they are 99% effective against PM2.5,  but where is the proof? Where is the independent data? I have no intention of waiting untold years for this crucial research — I can have that data within a couple of months from today, and I and every other worried parent out there can finally make an educated decision — for your kids and for yourself.

The Plan

Portacount fit-testing
Portacount fit-testing

A company in California, called Fast Response On-Site Testing (FROST), will perform the NIOSH-certified quantitative fit tests. I will buy all of the masks and mail to them for testing on adults and children. The quantitative fit test is the gold standard of mask testing: a person wears it for 15 minutes and performs multiple head maneuvers and breathing rates, and a machine tests the air both inside and outside the mask. (Here are the specs from OSHA). Each tester also will fill out a questionnaire asking whether or not they like the mask and would recommend it to family and friends. To make the data more statistically accurate, I plan to test five samples of each mask model.

All the data will be published on my blog and also on my New York Times Chinese edition health column.

I understand that people may be concerned about a private donation and not knowing where their money is going. To help reassure people, and for 100% full disclosure, everyone can “follow the money” at my online Excel spreadsheet here http://1drv.ms/1jNoq9k I receive zero money or masks from this. My reward is to provide evidence-based comprehensive data for tens of millions of worried parents!

Some of the masks to be tested (5 of each):

Adult masks:

Vogmask: (2 models: classic, valve)
I Can Breathe (2 models: Classic, Sport)
lvdun 绿盾正品 秋冬抗菌防PM2.5口罩
Lvdun 绿盾 (2 models)
Respro (4 models: Cinqro, City, Techno, Sportsta)
Totobobo (4 models: classic or earloops, 92 or 96 filter)
3M
3M (4 models: 8210 +/- valve, 9105, 9211)
3M
RZ (regular size)

Children’s sizes:

Lvdun 绿盾 (4 models: XS 3-6 yrs, S 7-12 yrs; 2 models each)
Vogmask (3 age sizes, +/- valve)
Respro: 1 model (Child Allergy)
Totobobo (3 cut sizes)
3M
RZ (1 youth size)
3M
3M (2 models: 1860S, 8110S, 4-12 yrs)

 

Major Questions To Be Answered

  • What’s the most effective and comfortable mask for infants, toddlers and children?
  • Can a 5 RMB disposable be as effective as a 500 RMB reusable?
  • Exhalation valves — are they more effective for breathing and sports?
  • Straps behind the ear — do they work as well as straps behind the head?
  • Exercise — which masks are most comfortable and still effective?

Donations To Roundabout Charity Store

Roundabout beijing donations needy chinaAfter testing, all unused masks as well as any extra funds will be donated to the non-profit Roundabout charity store in the Shunyi neighborhood of Beijing, where they will distribute to parents and children most in need. (the tested masks need to be thrown away as large holes are punched in them for testing). Roundabout is a wonderful organization, very similar to Goodwill in the USA — so please give them your support if you are ever out there!

Please click here to go to Rally.org and contribute. If you want to use Alipay 支付宝, please transfer to my account under my email at email I am hoping to raise $10,000 USD to test all the masks I’d want, but every donation will help. Thanks for your aid, and please spread the word!

 


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Twitter @RichardStCyrMD
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Photography: richardsaintcyr.com

11 thoughts on “Please Help Test Pollution Masks For Kids and Adults”

  1. What a wonderful endeavor!

    HEPAChina.com would like to support the project by either supplying masks and/or cover their purchase cost, up to 2000 RMB. As part of our donation, we’d be like to arrange or pay for the logistics to get the masks to FROST for testing, as well sending any masks that are suitable for re-use to the Roundabout charity store. Balance of any part of the donation not used for masks or logistics will be made as a cash donation to Rally.org.

    We suggest a couple other 3M masks be included, Model 8247 (similar 8210 Plus, but with a carbon layer) and 8577 (carbon layer with a valve) as they are popular with our customers.

    Good luck with the rest of the fund raising, and we look forward to seeing the results.

    David Helman, CRIE
    HEPAChina.com

    1. Wow, David. That’s a really generous offer, and of course I can use your assistance. What a terrific start for this project! I know from previous discussions that your company is very interested in helping out with pollution, so your offer is really appreciated. Please give me time over the next couple weeks to figure out how best we can use your wonderful offer. And yes, I’d definitely be interested in testing carbon layer 3M masks, although I don’t think that would effect this specific fit test which only looks for PM2.5. But let’s find out!

  2. Excellent idea! I love the idea of getting some good independent tests of masks, especially taking into account physical movement. If China had a Consumer Reports, we’d have that data already. But we can crowd-source it too!

    1. Thanks for the support, Thomas! But I still have a long way to go in terms of funds. Right now I could start a very limited testing, but to really do this right, I need to continue to raise more funds. Currently, I could test a couple dozen once — but I wanted 5 samples of 45 masks to make it truly useful and statistically evidence-based. So let’s please continue to spread the word!

  3. Richard, great thanks for the effort! I just found your website a couple of days ago and found it very helpful and insightful, particularly for our fellow Chinese people who are lack of the source of trustable independent advices. Will spread the word and make my part of contribution. Looking forward to see the result. Cheers

    1. Thanks! As of today, we are over the 50% mark with funding, so we are well on our way! I understand that people may be concerned about a private donation and not knowing where their money is going. To help reassure people, and for 100% full disclosure, everyone can “follow the money” at my online Excel spreadsheet here http://1drv.ms/1jNoq9k

  4. Richard,

    An excellent idea–thank you for not just this initiative, but also all of the observations, testing and information sharing that you have been doing on the efficacy of air purifiers and masks. You’ve been providing a major community service. Have told others about this effort and encouraging them to contribute as soon as possible.

    A couple of questions about the testing that you propose to have done:

    1. Will the tests also test the efficacy of various masks for adults? We think that this should be done too. Infants and children are more important given their relative vulnerability to pollutants, but it would be best to include testing for adults as well to make the results more comprehensive (and to draw as much funding and attention as possible). From your description, it appears that the testing would be of both masks worn by adults and by children/infants. But it’s not absolutely clear because under “Major Questions To Be Answered,” one of the questions listed is “What is the most effective and comfortable mask for toddlers, infants and children?”

    2. Why did you choose FROST? (I am sure that you did so after carefully researching various companies and industry experts, but it would be helpful to readers the explain the basis for choosing FROST). You may have an explanation somewhere on your blog–did I miss it?

    3. Would it be possible to have a Chinese company, or at least a company that is based in Beijing, do comparable testing, if money can be raised for this? While most people (not just foreigners, but Chinese as well) usually trust foreign testing agencies and labs more than Chinese ones, if a set of tests can be done by a highly respected, professional company based in Beijing, this would probably get more domestic (Chinese) media coverage and more attention in general from Chinese. Obviously, we would need to raise more money to do this, as well as find a credible, reliable company. Just an idea–don’t know if you had considered this before selecting FROST.

    Thanks, and keep up the great work!

    Phyllis

    1. Thanks for the support, Phyllis. Here are my responses:
      1. Yes, all types of masks will be tested for all ages and sizes. The children’s data is more crucial because there’s almost no serious testing for kids, while many adult masks have this data already.
      2. I chose FROST for couple reasons: they are one of the many NIOSH certified companies to perform this testing, so any of them would have been OK. But they had a head start because they’re the only one I knew who worked with children’s mask testing, with Vogmask. Plus, their customer service has been super helpful and excited about this project, and their staff is actually volunteering to help out. All the other companies I had contacted were much less interested and more corporate, not really understanding the goals. Also, as they are in the San Francisco Bay area (my former home town), there are many Asians there so we can get a good racial mix of facial sizes — some studies have suggested that masks fit differently with different races.
      3. Anything is possible for the right money. I did contact one Portacount testing group in Beijing but their cost was ridiculously expensive, and they are more research-based, anyway. But the entire mask testing industry is far more advanced in the USA and Europe, with work safety laws for many decades. I need a credible testing team with experience. Have you ever seen even one construction team in China wearing safety masks? FROST, like the other companies, does thousands of tests every year at construction sites and schools.

      I hope this helps to clarify for you and others. It’s important that everyone feels this testing is independent and evidence based, so I appreciate scrutiny.

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