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Respirators Or Masks - Which One To Go For?

Reviewed by
Dr. Uday Gupte 92% (11 ratings)
MD - Medicine
General Physician, Nagpur  •  31 years experience
Respirators Or Masks - Which One To Go For?

Breathe in and breathe out, is an involuntary continuous action through which the human body receives the oxygen it requires for proper functioning. Without oxygen, our entire circulatory system would collapse. However, with the amount of pollutants present in the atmosphere today, the air we breathe is not as pure as it should be. Instead of breathing in oxygen, we’re inhaling harmful gases like carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide along with particulate matter. Prolonged exposure to pollutants like this can seriously endanger our health and well-being. Air pollution spreads easily and the only way to protect oneself from it is by creating a barrier that filters the air we breathe in.

And, for this reason, it is advisable that one should wear a respirator or mask. When wearing a mask or respirator the most important part is to ensure that it seals your nose and mouth effectively. Otherwise, pollutants can enter through the gaps and contaminate the filtered air. But how should one decide, which type of mask is suitable for them and for that we need to understand what all masks are available.

Respiratory masks can be grouped into three categories:
Surgical masks

  • Simple flat masks as worn by doctors while operating
  • Highly beneficial where there is heavy particulate matter density in the air as they are effective at filtering out particulate matter
  • Does not offer protection against harmful chemicals
  • It is a good idea to wear these masks while travelling through dusty zones or when caught in a storm
  • Offer protection only for a limited time
  • Cannot not be reused 
  • Cost around few hundred rupees


  • Respirators have a similar structure as that of surgical masks 
  • They fit the face better than a surgical mask
  • Have filters installed and protection against particulate matter and against certain gases and chemicals
  • For better protection, they should be washed regularly against harmful fumes and particulate matter encountered
  • Should be used while travelling through heavy traffic zones and while working in construction zones
  • The ideal way to protect yourself 
  • Cost around few hundred to thousand rupees, based on their quality and brand

Gas masks

  • Gas masks are often worn in chemical laboratories
  • Special replaceable filters offer full protection against, both particulate matter and harmful chemicals
  • Basic mask costs around 1000 rupees or more based on quality and brand
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