Wearing a highly effective air pollution mask has been shown to help reduce the risk of exposure to atmospheric levels of fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, and other airborne particulates, decreasing the chance of illness and death related to air pollution. A 2018 study in China suggested that masks with filtration equivalent to N95, KN95 or FFP2 were most effective for filtering PM2.5 and diesel soot.
Though surgical face masks, more commonly and comfortably used, are less effective filters, research suggests that these still help to reduce the amount of harmful particulates breathed in.
But what comes next? Pre-pandemic, few Jakarta residents wore a mask regularly despite the poor quality of the air. A popular ride-hailing operation in Indonesia used to distribute a face mask to the passengers who used its motor taxi service.
This is unlike people in major Asian cities who are no strangers to wearing masks, one of the reasons for which being air pollution. In Japan, for example, people have worn a face mask in 1950s as a protection against rising air pollution. In Vietnam, face masks are as common as helmets for motorcycles and scooters on the streets of Hanoi.
MASKS ARE NOT THE SOLUTION TO AIR POLLUTION WOES
Masks are a salve, not a cure for Jakarta’s air pollution troubles.
A dangerous level of pollution, more than 20 million motor vehicles and cigarette smoking an integral part of daily life for many, could be a lethal combination. So while urging residents to continue wearing masks is a right move, tackling the problem of air pollution more seriously should be a priority for the city government.