New Delhi: The government is set to unveil regulations on the sale of air pollution masks, which have spiked in the wake of Delhi’s air quality hitting new lows.

“In our meeting on environmental health last week, we discussed the rising sale of air pollution masks in the market and on online platforms. As the World Health Organization (WHO) is also mulling to form a policy and issue recommendations for usage of air pollution masks to be followed globally, the government is also thinking to bring out the right protocol to use face masks," said T.K. Joshi, adviser, occupational and environmental health and chemical safety in the Union health ministry.

There are several kinds of air pollution masks available in market ranging from 100 to 4,000 and their sales have escalated, especially after Diwali. Face masks filter out airborne particles present in the polluted air, but all masks are not equally effective against small particulate matters.

“Currently people are purchasing masks without considering the risks attached to them. Some masks can even do harm than good as they can hamper breathing. We only recommend dust mask or N95 mask. These masks can be used if the house is on the main road with lot of traffic and while going out," said Joshi.

“Masks must fit tightly, should be kept in hygienic conditions, and a mask worn by an individual should not be used by others. Those with beards, facial deformity cannot use mask as it would be a poor fit. Mask will eventually get clogged when air quality is bad and will need replacement."

There have been research studies that have established that a majority of face masks are not effective in preventing health risks from air pollution. “Mask makes breathing harder, and is not advised for those who have advanced heart and lung disease. If there is the slightest discomfort and uneasiness after using, take medical advice, otherwise masks can cause problems," said Joshi.

“Mask will only arrest particles, and gases will pass through. There are masks that can remove gases but these are called respirators. These should not be used as these require medical clearance and continuous supervision by an expert," he said.

The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has also issued an advisory, saying when air pollution is high, people should avoid peak traffic hours and stay indoors. Infants and toddlers should not be taken out in peak traffic hours unless there is some important reason, and this is regardless of air quality.

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