This video explains what to wear instead
If you’re wearing a green surgical mask to protect yourself from new viruses spreading or the smog, we suggest you toss it. A surgical mask does not sit snug around your nose and mouth, so you still inhale the bad air. Surgical masks were made only to protect doctors from things like blood or fluid splatter. They have no use in protecting your lungs.
You need to look for surgical, NIOSH-approved N95 respirators which are recommended across the world to stop the deadly PM2.5 in its tracks and stop it from entering your lungs. They have been cleared by the WHO and USA’s Food and Drug Administration.
You can easily buy them in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad. One international company that sells respirators (especially for construction workers) is 3M Pakistan. These respirators filter between 95% and 99.9% of pollution. Other companies that make respirators are Honeywell, Pro-Health and Xiaomi. You can buy them online.
There are more expensive respirators available as well. These ones look like the gas masks you see in films. They are priced starting Rs3,000 and are effective for up to one year of use. These offer 95% filtration and have a dual-filtration system which needs to be replaced every few weeks. The filters are sold separately.
Where you can buy them
You can buy the N5 respirator online. In Karachi, you go to Bolton Market’s Nicol Road. Lahore’s GOR-II area, near the SDO office sells them. In Rawalpindi, they can be purchased in Saddar.
Beware of fakes
The markets are rife with counterfeit respirators claiming to be the original, WHO- and FDA-approved devices. All you need to do is a simple internet search on your phone before buying one. For example, with the 3M respirators, the bottom of the box has a unique Secure Code (top) and Lot Code (below). On the 3M Safe Guard site, you can input these codes to verify the product on the spot.