There is a serious smog problem in Seoul Korea. Sensitive to this issue since we live here in Seoul. ( I love it here, but the pollution scares me.)
I’ve been dismissing the masks being worn as useless. I decided I need to speak from real information not assumption.
NPR published a study in 2016 to show just how serious things are.
Koreans worry much more about environmental issues (air pollution is #1 concern) that danger from North Korea. In fact, North Korean threats rank #5 in importance. Seoul has 10.1m people in an area that covers 12% of South Korea. One of the most densely populated and homogeneous cities in the world. There are some 22.8m cars in Seoul. Korean car emissions and manufacturing produce the most harmful emissions in Seoul.
To contrast, there are barely 3m people total in the state of Utah. There 8.6m people living in New York City.
The bottom line is to be protected from air pollution in Seoul, you must wear a mask capable of filtering out what is referred in international standards as PM 2.5. (particles 2.5 microns or larger) The cheap face masks most people wear do not even meet the requirements for PM 10 (particles of 10 microns or larger and according to Reuters–only 32% of the particulates are being filtered. That’s whopping 68% leakage.
Hardly being protective. In general, my assumptions were correct. Most masks are not effective and are merely a weak fashion statement. But after doing this quick study, I learned there are affordable solutions. There are usable masks (more expensive but effective) that can meet the PM 2.5 specs.
Make sure you have masks that have a rating of N95 or better.