Why use N95 mask VS regular face mask


Just 12 days after the new year arrived, mother nature has again threatened the everyday routine of the Filipinos, specifically in the northern part of the country.

Around 1:00 PM on January 12, the picturesque Taal Volcano started spewing ashes, which PHIVOLCS Undersecretary Renato Salidum said has “generated a plume of ash around 100 meters high.”

Following its hydrothermal activities, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) placed the volcanic island and its nearby and surrounding towns on alert.

This natural catastrophe then escalated quickly, pushing PHIVOLCS to raise the alert level status, from two to four in a span of three hours.

As of 8:00 AM of January 13, the Alert Level 4 status remains, which means that “hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days.”

DOST-PHIVOLCS strongly reiterates total evacuation of Taal Volcano Island and areas at high risk to pyroclastic density currents and volcanic tsunami within a 14-kilometer radius from Taal Main Crater. Areas in the general north of Taal Volcano are advised to guard against the effects of heavy and prolonged ashfall. Civil aviation authorities must advise aircraft to avoid the airspace around Taal Volcano as airborne ash and ballistic fragments from the eruption column pose hazards to aircraft.


IN PHOTOS: Compilation of images during the 2020 Taal Volcano eruption

Tiny, Tiny rock particles

Volcanic ash consists of powder-size to sand-size particles of igneous rock material that have been blown into the air by an erupting volcano. With its soft-looking material, one would easily mistake it as a harmless powder. But NO, volcanic ash is a rock material composed of irregular-shaped particles with sharp, jagged edges (see image below). Hence, it can be an irritating material and a hazard to people, property, machinery, communities, and the environment (Geology.com).

Microscopic image of volcanic ash. (Kristi Wallace/USGS)

Inhaling volcanic ash can cause irritation, discomfort, and serious health issues. Exposed individuals might suffer respiratory problems, including nose and throat irritation, coughing, bronchitis-like illnesses, and experience trouble breathing. On the other hand, individuals who already endure illnesses such as bronchitis, emphysema, or asthma are highly encouraged to avoid exposure at all costs.

When going outside, make sure to equip yourself with the necessary mask. For this volcanic ash, it is advisable to wear an N95 mask.

Also called P2, FFP2, or DS2 in other parts of the world, the N95 is an industry-certified facemask highly efficient at filtering out ashes. Plus, it is designed to tightly fit adults, minimizing your risk of inhaling the hazardous particles. And, unlike regular masks or cloth masks, an N95 can filter at least 95 percent airborne particles.

Just in case you don’t have an N95 mask, another alternative that you can improvise by placing two layers of tissue between your face and a regular Dura mask. Based on research done by a professor at Chiang Mai University Faculty of Medicine in Thailand, the improvised mask can filter 75-90 percent tiny dust particles.


Although wearing a mask may reduce health risks, avoidance is still much preferable.

Seek shelter in sealed and well-ventilated buildings, particularly to infants, children, elderly, and individuals with existing respiratory or cardiovascular diseases.



Cosmopolitan Philippines. (2020, January 13). Why An N95 Mask Is Recommended To Protect Yourself From Ashfall. Retrieved on 2020, January 13 from www.cosmo.ph

Geology. (n.d). Volcanic Ash. Retrieved on 2020, January 13 from geology.com

Horwell, C. (2018, August 23). Protection from breathing ask. International Volcanic Health Hazard Network. Retrieved on 2020, January 13 from www.ivhhn.org

Thai Residents. (2019, January 16). Easy method for N95 substitute. Retrieved on 2020, January 13 from www.thairesidents.com