Volcanic Ash Alert: What Mask to Get and What to Do When It’s Sold Out


After Taal Volcano’s eruption last night, ashfall is being experienced throughout Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Metro Manila, and even parts of Rizal. While the ashfall today is not as extreme as it was yesterday, volcanic ash is still lingering in the air, which is why it's important to wear protective masks when outside, particularly for those who reside near Taal Volcano.

The P3 mask

The most ideal masks to get are the P1, P2, and P3 masks, also known as dust masks, often used in construction or when doing DIY projects at home. These masks are made to protect you from breathing in particles, and you can find them in construction shops.

These are harder to come by in your everyday pharmacy, so for the common civilian, this is what we recommend:

The N95 mask

These masks were made to protect individuals from bacteria and viruses, but they can also block 95 percent of very small particles. The N95 mask only works if it’s fit tightly against your skin so there are no gaps for air to enter your nose and mouth. It’s not designed for people with facial hair and for small children.

Photo by SHOPEE.

The N95 mask is reusable so long as it’s not clogged by particles and dirt. As you can reuse them to an extent, it’s highly advised that you do not hoard or stock up on N95 masks when others are also in need of them.

If the N95 is sold out at your nearest Watsons, Mercury Drug, and local pharmacy, this is what you can do:

The surgical mask

A surgical mask alone is not enough to stop you from breathing in ashfall. This mask was designed to protect the user from liquids and solids—not gas or small particles. It does nothing when faced with ashfall. However, if you place two layers of tissue between your face and the surgical mask, you increase your protection from ashfall and small particles by 75 to 90 percent.

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When surgical masks are also out of stock in stores near you, here’s the backup’s backup plan:

Wet cloth or towel

When all else fails (or is sold out), the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) recommends using a wet cloth or towel to cover your nose and mouth to avoid breathing in volcanic ash.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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