Where To Buy The Right Face Masks For Smoke

Where To Buy The Right Face Masks For Smoke
Image: Getty

New South Wales is currently suffering through a severe smoke haze, as strong winds spread bushfire smoke across the state. While many have turned to filtered masks for protection against the pollution, not all masks are effective in protecting against smoke inhalation. For the best protection, you’ll need a P2 mask — the kind usually worn by builders.

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What is a P2 mask?

A P2 mask, otherwise known as a PR respirator, is a mask designed to filter fine particles from the air, and is mostly used to reduce the transmission of airborne diseases, and on building sites to protect against harmful chemicals.

Bushfire smoke carries PM2.5 particles, which are harmful particles made up of components that can include nitrates, sulphates, organic chemicals, metals, soil or dust particles, according to the NSW Health department.

P2 masks have the ability to filter out this smoke, and provide protection against particulate matter for wearers.

As you travel throughout your day, you may notice people on the streets wearing masks more akin to doctor’s masks, or those worn by a surgeon.

Image: Getty

Unfortunately, there’s no scientific evidence that these masks actually protect against pollution or particulate matter, meaning that they’re not going to do much for you in the current smoke haze.

P2 masks are the only masks that come highly recommended by health professionals, although you’ll need to know how to fit it right for the best protection. When fitting a P2 masks, it’s important to ensure that the fit is secure, as this will help to reduce the inhalation of particulate matter.

In a statement provided to Lifehacker Australia, NSW Health Director of Environmental Health, Dr Richard Broome stated, “A P2 mask does filter out these particles, but is only effective if there is a good fit and an air-tight seal around the mouth and nose.”

It’s important to fit and check your P2 mask properly before heading out to ensure as much effectiveness as possible. NSW Health provides a step-by-step guide on correct fitting of the masks here.

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As of Monday morning, ongoing bushfires have continued to devastate Australia. At least 24 people have died, many are missing, and roughly 4.9 million hectares and one thousand homes have been destroyed in New South Wales, one of the hardest-hit states. The fires have also ravaged the lands of national parks and impacted the air quality of major cities like Sydney. Here's what you can do to help.

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Where can I buy a P2 mask?

A P2 mask can be bought from any major hardware store, including Bunnings, Officeworks and Blackwoods. Stores like Mitre 10 may also stock P2 masks in store, but their website is currently sold out due to high demand.

For those wishing for a more stylish option, there are P2 masks available from Amazon, but keep in mind that you’ll have to wait longer for delivery if you’d like one.

As we prepare for one of Australia’s most severe pollution and bushfire seasons, it’s important to keep yourself safe with the right equipment. Before heading out to purchase a mask, make sure you’re buying the right one.

3M Consumer has a handy safety infographic about P2 masks below:

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  • Correct. Paper masks give no protection from bush fire smoke.
    Likewise, most P2 or N95 masks that you buy from a hardware store are only suitable for removing dust or particulates.
    There are not only particulates in bush fire smoke there are also harmful gasses.
    These need to be filtered out using a carbon filter.
    Make sure any mask you buy contains a carbon filter.
    An ideal setup is the reusable 3M 7500 half face respirator (mask) fitted with a 3M 6059 ABEK1 multigas cartridge or similar, and in front of that a 3M 5925 P2 particulate filter. I am a chronic asthmatic and this is what I wear for this smoke.
    The mask comes in 3 sizes, small, medium and large. Most women, and men with small faces, usually take a small.
    This is not medical advice. Users should do their own research and buy accordingly.
    Make sure when you put a respirator mask on that it seals against your face so no smoke can bypass the filters and be sucked into your lungs. You must be clean shaven.

    • Thanks for that – I appreciate this advice for a reuseable mask that I couldn’t easily find elsewhere through some quick googlings.

      I have ended up buying a (supposedly 3M brand) 7502 mask off ebay from a seller in NSW for around $26 – there were cheaper ones but they mixed and matched ‘3M’ brand and ‘MC’ clone images and often listed ‘MC’ as the item/brand instead of 3M. Bunnings are selling these for around $100 so it is a LOT cheaper on ebay.

      For $26 it is a full kit with cartridges and filters but I thought I would add to it with some P100 filters, which I managed to get (supposedly 3M brand, says 3M in the brand section and all 3M photos) for around $20 on ebay, from China (the cheapest I could find the hard case 7093 P100 filters). I figure why stop at P95 and just get P100. That was for a four pack. $46 isn’t that cheap but definitely worth it compared to $10 for a pack of disposable P2 masks.. there are cheaper replacement filters also but I thought the plastic cartridges should last longer in rain/against knocks and also provide better visibility, however I will see how they go.

      Considering this could be a regular occurrence in our country in the future I figure a non-disposable respirator is a good idea to have.

  • Hi Leah,

    Thought I would share that I was able to purchase a Vogmask for my wife and I from this small company based in Bexley NSW.

    https://www.theallergyshop.com.au/allergy-masks/ Rated P2.5 and N95. Much more better looking and practical than what Bunnings and Officeworks offers.

    I’m not affiliated in anyway but thought those based in NSW have a better option to purchase a respected facemask brand locally.

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