Australian Bushfires: Which Face Mask Can Help?

Australian Bushfires is happening, what do I need now to survive the smoke?

Bushfires have always played an important role in fertilizing the vegetation in Australia, which has a dense and relatively flat landscape. However, the recent 2019 bushfire surprised the Australian public with its unusual premature timing and ferocity.

Consequently, many people had been left lacking in preparation when it happened. The Australian public is angry, blaming the government for fire control budget cuts the previous year. Meanwhile, others blame climate change; and protests rang out on the streets of Sydney. While the feeling of discontent rage alongside the fires, koala populations are being threatened, and the current state of New South Wales (NSW) air quality poses a threat to everyone.

Fires burning across NSW and sending out smoke to Sydney reported by

Sydney’s skies are blanketed in smoke and the Air Quality Index (AQI) is off the charts. It shows ‘hazardous’ levels due to the NSW bushfires. Most of the local population is likely to be affected and The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has assigned an emergency condition health warning.

According to data from the NSW Department of the Environment, Sydney is experiencing much higher rates of PM2.5 than normal as a result of bushfire smoke.

Cambridge Mask Sydney Air Quality Sydney Air Quality December 10th 2019 taken from Berkeley Earth

Furthermore, Dr. Richard Broome from NSW Health commented during his interview for ABC News: “The longer this condition is going on for, the more risk there is. Particularly for people who have existing heart & lung conditions. So, it becomes increasingly important to avoid physical activity when it’s smoky. Follow your asthma management plan or your disease management plan if you have chronic conditions.”

Bushfire smoke contains damaging particles, like PM2.5, and likelihood is, you ought to have a mask. We'll explain why.

What exactly is in bushfires smoke?

Smoke from bushfires is made up of small particles, gases, and water vapor. The particles expelled by the fire are very small (up to 1/30th the diameter of an average human hair) and are not visible to the human eye.

The gases in bushfire smoke include carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and toxic volatile organic compounds.

Wildfire smoke can transport ash, dust, and pollution over hundreds of miles. Fire scientists are finding it can also transport living things: Danielle Venton, KQED Science

What is PM 2.5 and why is it dangerous?

PM2.5 Diagram from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Bushfire smoke carries 2.5 particulate matter. PM2.5 is an extremely small particle. If breathed in, it can penetrate deep into the lungs, pass into the blood-stream, and seriously impair the lung function.

READ HERE for 6 things you need to know about PM2.5

If you are continuously breathing in PM 2.5 without any filtration, it might have long or short term negative effects. Those effects likely are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nose and throat irritation
  • Excessive coughing and wheezing
  • Diminished lung and heart function
  • Asthma attacks

What mask can I wear to protect myself from PM 2.5 and poor AQI?

One of the most effective ways to protect yourself from poor air quality exposure is to spend more time inside or away from polluted environments. For many of us living in urban or semi-urban areas, this is an impossible feat. Another option is to wear a respirator that fits tightly to your face and can filter out any tiny but dangerous particulate matter before you breathe it in.

Cambridge Mask Sydney Skies Thick smoke comparison of Sydney versus normal day taken on December 5th 2019 by @melisahenderson

For this purpose, Cambridge Mask Company provides two different types of masks: the BASIC Mask and the PRO Mask. They are available in 5 sizes that fit children and adults and can protect your airways as you conduct your day-to-day business outdoors.

The PRO Mask is Unique Lab tested British Military Filtration Technology filters almost 100% of pollution, gases, and 99.6% of viruses and 99.7% of bacteria.

The Cambridge Mask PRO is made by combining 3 unique layers:

  • The Primary Filter Layer – particles such as dust and PM 10 is filtered through the first layer.
  • The Three-Ply Micro Particulate Layer – this is the second layer of the PRO mask and blocks particulate pollution such as PM2.5. It has been independently tested to filter particles as small as PM0.3
  • Our Inner filter is made from a 100% pure activated carbon cloth, which was originally invented by the UK Ministry of Defense.

Showcasing an array of beautiful designs, the PRO mask is a fashionable accessory in the fight to protect yourself against pollutants: READ MORE HERE

Meanwhile, the BASIC mask features New Lab tested filtration technology. It filters over 95% of pollution, gases, and bacteria.



It's better to be safe than sorry. Wearing a respirator will help you get through the day and breathe cleaner air.

Cloth and Paper Masks Just Won't Cut It

Cloth or paper masks are fairly loosely fitting and, without a proper seal, any mask will not work. READ HERE to ensure the best fit of your respirator. Medical masks have been specifically designed to prevent bacteria and viruses from coming into contact with the respiratory area (nose and mouth), so they don't necessarily work effectively as a barrier against the pollutants in bushfires. This is why they are suitable in a medical setting, but not for outside use when combating the harmful effects of bushfire particles.

Will an air purifier help?

While the air quality is poor, spending time inside is recommended. Dr. Richard Broome shared his thoughts on air purifiers and states that they can be effective if they have HEPA filters and are placed correctly in a room of the appropriate size. The most important thing to remember when relying on indoor air purifiers is to ensure the room is sealed. Unfortunately, without a proper seal, they will not work.

Stay Alert and Updated!

Australian Bush Fire Fact - Fire danger. Know the signs

If you have kept an eye on NSWRFS, you must have been familiar with the notices that they published frequently about the bushfire's progress. The Forest Fire Danger Index is based on these forecast conditions, namely temperature, humidity, wind speed, and dryness of the landscape.

What does this mean?

  • Severe – the only risk staying if the homeowner is well prepared and they can defend the house.
  • Extreme – the only risk staying if the home is prepared to the very highest level and is specially built to survive a bush fire
  • Catastrophic – the highest alert sign which means no homes can withstand fires in these conditions. The safest option is for people to leave before any fire has started.
Please click here for Fire Ready Kit ‘Your Guide to Survival’
Fire Ready Kit Updated 2018 Fire Ready Kit for survival plan and basic preparation for Australian bushfire season published by Country Fire Authority (CFA)

Important Links & Groups for Australian Bush Fires:

Finally, it is very important to stay updated and alert with the bush fires. These sites that you should start to follow and keep up with are:

New South Wales: Website: Instagram: @nswrfs Facebook Page : @nswrfs Twitter: @NSWRFS Youtube: NSWRFS Apps: Fires Near Me NSW

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