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Best Respirators for Bush Fire Smoke

08 January 2020
Brendan Clayton

Best Respirators for Bush Fire Smoke

Bush fires are part of Australian life. Australian bush fires are known to produce large amounts of smoke and with the current unprecedented dangerous bush fire season, what mask should we wear?

Bushfires are creating smoky conditions across much of NSW & Victoria that may continue for some time. Smoke can affect people’s health and it is important for everyone to reduce exposure.

P2 rated face masks can help filter out the fine particles in smoke. To be effective, they must be fitted according to the manufacturer’s instructions and form a tight seal around the face. It can be difficult to maintain a tight seal, particularly for people with facial hair.​

  • Surgical and cloth masks do not protect against smoke.
  • P2/N95 rated face masks can filter out the fine particles in smoke.
  • Wearing a P2 face mask can make it harder to breathe and increase the risk of heat-related illness.
  • If you have a heart or lung condition, consult your doctor before using one.
  • If you have difficulty breathing, feel dizzy, faint or have other symptoms while wearing a face mask. remove it and go to place with cleaner air quality.

Why use a P2 face mask? 

Disposable P2 face masks (also known as P2 respirators) are able to filter out very fine particles from the air when worn correctly. They help reduce exposure to bushfire smoke / poor air quality and associated health effects.

P2/N95 face masks are widely available from hardware stores and other safety equipment suppliers.

Putting on and checking the mask

Take time to correctly identify which size and style of mask is suitable for you. Each time a P2/N95 face mask is used it should be fit checked before entering an unsafe environment. Fit checks ensure that the mask is sealed over the bridge of the nose and mouth, and that there are no gaps in the seal between the mask and the face.

P2/N95 face masks should always be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Procedure for putting on a P2 face mask and conducting a fit check

  1. Remove glasses and hats. Tie back long hair so it does not become tangled in the straps of the respiratory protection
  2. Put the mask on your face, ensuring the nose piece is at the top of the mask
  3. Place the headband or ties over the head and at the base of the neck
  4. Compress the mask against the face to ensure a seal across the bridge of the nose
  5. Compress the mask to ensure a seal across the cheeks and the face; and
  6. Conduct a fit check: check the seal of the mask by gently inhaling. If the mask is not drawn in towards the face, or air leaks around the face seal, read adjust the mask and repeat process or check for defects in the mask. If the mask still leaks you may need to try a different size or style of mask.

People with beards should shave before using a P2 mask as a good seal between the mask and the wearer’s face cannot be guaranteed if they have facial hair.​