anti pollution masks for sports

6 Best Anti Pollution Masks For Sports

pollution mask for sports

If you live in a busy city, and you enjoy jogging or any form of outdoor sports one thing that can really mess with your work out time is pollution from traffic and industry. Pollution nowadays is so bad that in some cities people say they get an after taste of fumes in their mouths and at times a tingling sensation in their chest after an intense outdoor workout.

The thing is as you work out outdoors, you are forced to inhale a much higher volume of air cause you need more oxygen to sustain your body. You are breathing heavy, and if the air where you live is dirty, you inhale all sorts of dangerous pollutants it contains.

Accordingly, because of the large of pollutants you breathe in when working out outdoors, you put yourself at risk of health issues like asthma flare-ups, COPD, cancer, poor fitness levels, and even a stroke.

This is where anti-pollution masks tailored for those of us who like to work out outdoors come in handy. With the correct anti-pollution mask for sports, you can beat the pollution and safely continue your outdoor sports activity. In this light, I wrote this post to show you what options you have.

Of all the sports anti-pollution masks I came across on my search for the best one, I found the U-Mask to be the most protective because of its biotechnology filtration approach. However, if you want the best level of protection from pollutants I found gas masks are the best way to go and for outdoor sports, I highly suggest MIRA Safety’s Gas Masks

Now, before I show you all the pollution masks I found to be fit for outdoor sports in detail, I first show you how pollution masks work and then give you some tips and tricks to get the most out of them. With this information, you should be good to go to continue doing outdoor sports while minimizing your exposure to air pollution.

How Anti-Pollution Masks Work

The way anti-pollution masks work is very simple. From my experience with masks, I have seen two types in terms of air filtration systems. These include the usual anti-pollution masks which use mechanical filtration and the less common biotechnology mask which uses biological filtration.

For both these types of masks, the idea is to keep very small airborne particles that makeup pollution called particulate matter from going into your lungs through your mouth and nose. In this way, masks protect you from the harmful effects of air pollution.

All masks act as a shield between your mouth and/or your nose and polluted air. The common mechanical filtration masks contain a filter material which captures particulate matter as you inhale before they reach your respiratory system. 

The biotechnology filtration mask, on the other hand, contains a filter with some enzymes which digest pollutants that get captured within the mask as you breathe in and out. The pollutants are decomposed into harmless water vapor and carbon dioxide before they get the chance of entering your respiratory system.

When looking for a sports anti-pollution mask, I found that they are also called exercise masks (not to be confused with altitude elevation masks), respirator mask or dust masks. I also found mainly two types of masks in terms of how masks are built.

There are masks that cover both your mouth and nose and some that only cover your nose. Of the two types, when it comes to sports I recommend you only go for masks that cover both your mouth and nose. 

When you are working out there is no way you will not breathe through your mouth and so you have to make sure it’s covered up too to protect yourself.

In terms of how long you can wear your mask, you will find you can get either a disposable mask or a reusable mask. You dispose of disposable masks after wearing them once while reusable masks last for a couple of years with weekly or monthly filter changes depending on how often you use your mask and how high your pollution levels are. 

All these masks I have described so far will only help you stop inhaling particulate matter which only consists of solid airborne pollutant particles. They will not protect you from dangerous airborne gases and vapor. 

For protection against gases and vapor, you will need a gas mask or escape hood. Gas masks and escape hoods are just an enhanced version of your normal mechanical filtration mask. They are more advanced because their filters not only protect you from particulate matter but various common gas, vapor, and volatile organic compound pollution. 

Really high-quality mechanical filtration masks are usually given a rating to indicate their filtration level in terms of pollutant particulate size. To be absolutely sure your masks rating is authentic, it should have a stamp of approval from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). 

NIOSH gives masks that filter out a minimum of 95% of airborne particles a 95 rating. If a mask filters out 99% of particulates it is given a “99” rating and finally, if it filters at least 99.97% it receives a “100” rating.

Mechanical filtration masks are further rated as N, R, or P. The letters indicate the level of protection against oils. Masks are rated like this because some industrial oils can degrade your filter performance so that it doesn’t filter out pollutants properly.

Your respirator is rated “N,” if it is not resistant to oil, “R” if it can somewhat resist airborne oil particulates, and “P” if it is oil Proof. Now if you combine oil resistance with the level of filtration, you end up with nine types of disposable particulate respirators as shown in the table below.

Anti-Pollution Mask Ratings

Rating Oil resistance

 Description (> 0.3-micron particles)

N95 Not oil resistant

Filters at least 95% of airborne particles

N99 Not oil resistant

Filters at least 99% of airborne particles

N100 Not oil resistant

Filters at least 99.97% of airborne particles

R95 Oil resistant

Filters at least 95% of airborne particles

R99 Oil resistant

Filters at least 99% of airborne particles

R100 Oil resistant

Filters at least 99.97% of airborne particles

P95 Oilproof

Filters at least 95% of airborne particles 

P99 Oilproof

Filters at least 99% of airborne particles 

P100 Oilproof

Filters at least 99.97% of airborne particles

 As for gas masks, NIOSH simply labels them Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN), if they can effectively deal with such pollutants.

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Sports Anti-Pollution Mask

Now that you know how anti-pollution masks work let us look at how you can best use them. The most common problem when it comes to masks is how well they fit on your face.

Research shows that most sports masks experience an inward average leak of between 5% - 68%  when you are sedentary and 7%-66% when you are active. 

The reason for this leakage is largely due to your mask fitting poorly on your face. Leakage means though your mask is on, some polluted air still sips through gaps in between your mask and skin and so you are not adequately protected from the bad air.

The trick to minimizing leakage is getting a snug fit mask. When getting a mask also try to get a mask that has multiple sizes and an adjustable nose bridge that allows you to adjust the mask to fit. If you are getting a mask for a child, look for a mask designed for children. 

It is a good idea to also measure your face to know exactly what size mask you should be wearing. RZ Mask and Cambridge Mask provide good guides to find out your mask size and I also found the video below helpful in that regard.

It’s wise to also go in-store and try on masks with different types of straps to see what shape mask fits you well and comfortably. Besides inward leakage, if you don’t get a mask that fits well and you wear glasses or a helmet with a glass windshield, you will find your warm breath fogging up your glass and obstructing your vision.

In addition to getting a tight fit mask, to avoid steam from your breath escaping from your mask and toward your eyes, make sure your mask has an exhale valve. The valve is usually a round-shaped knob that sticks out on the front of your mask. 

When you exhale, the valve lets out your breath in a downward direction and helps keep your vision clear. However, do note that valves won’t really work well for helmets as your whole head is enclosed within the helmet and your breath still won’t flow immediately out of your helmet.

Masks also become a tricky affair if you have an obstructing beard. See the below infographic from the CDC.

No mask will snug fit your face if you have a beard. The simple solution is to just shave off your beard. If that is a no go, then the other option is to wear an escape hood. 

An escape hood will work for most sports activities but certainly not all. One escape hood I found on Amazon that will do the trick is the Elmridge iEvac Escape Hood.

As I have shown you earlier, normal antipollution masks largely fail to filter out vapor and gaseous pollution and so cannot protect you from such pollutants. If you need a mask that also deals with gases and vapors, then go for a gas mask instead of the usual particulate mask.

Lastly, people commonly complain about their masks smelling like neoprene. This is no surprise as a lot of masks are made using this material. If you happen to get a mask with an intrusive almost plasticky and hospital like-new smell, that’s the kind of smell I am talking about. 

If the smell does not amuse you at all then simply leave your mask in an open area to let it catch some air and it will go away eventually. The other thing with neoprene, but this is not so common, is that it can irritate your skin. 

Some people are allergic to neoprene, so just in case you are allergic take extra care if you go for a sports antipollution mask made of neoprene.

All in all, if you keep in mind the above steps and follow them as you encounter each of the above issues, your sports anti-pollution mask should work to its maximum protective capacity. 

6 Anti Pollution Masks That Work Well For Sports

There are many anti-pollution masks out there and all sorts of masks are being advertised as suitable for sports. In view of this, you have to be careful when looking for a new mask. 

As much as there are a number of good products available, this industry is filled with a lot of dodgy and misleading advertising with fictitious product claims.

To help you cut through the nonsense, I decided to do some in-depth research to find the masks that actually work and below are 5 masks I found worth considering for sports. A good sports mask needs to fit well on your face, it also has to be easy to move around with, especially for high-intensity movements and it must be as comfortable as possible.

1. RZ Dust/Pollution Mask w/2 Laboratory Tested Filters, Model M1, Splat, 

The RZ Mask is an awesome mask designed with outdoor sports players in mind. You can use this anti-pollution mask for activities as intense as dirt-biking and football and more relaxed activities like hunting. 

The mask is great for cold-weather as well and will keep your respiratory system safe from dust, pollen, and odors. It has an activated carbon filter that absorbs some dangerous gases, vapors, and odors and a particulate filter that keeps most particulate pollutants at bay and these are all approved to be of the good standard by Nelson Laboratories.

The mask is made of tough-duty and durable neoprene and has two exhale valves that significantly cut condensation and reduce fogging within your mask and around your face. It also has an adjustable nose clip to help you make it snug fit and further prevent fogging around your face.

The mask comes with an easily adjustable velcro strap for easier fit across various head shapes and has sizes ranging from Small to XL and it also fits comfortably in your helmet. You can check out the RZ MASK at Amazon here.

2. Respro Nitesight Mask

Another brand of anti-pollution masks worth considering for sports is Respro. They have a variety of masks but one that particularly caught my attention was the Respro Nitesight Mask. 

The mask is very similar to the RZ Mask with velcro straps and an activated carbon cloth filter. It filters out particulates including dust, exhaust emissions, and pollen and will also deal with some volatile organic compounds and certain gases. 

That said it is different in that it has an interesting glow in the dark feature. Respro calls it Scotchlite. The Respro Nitesight Mask is made of a glow in the dark material which makes you more visible at night and in low-light conditions during the day. 

I think this is great for sporting activities like night mountain biking or hiking or during winter when the sun doesn’t shine so bright. The mask also has an exhale valve and adjustable nose clip to aide with mask condensation and fogging. Have a look at the Respro Mask at Amazon here.

3. BASE CAMP Activated Carbon  Dust Mask

Unlike the Respro and RZ masks, the Base Camp anti-pollution mask is made of nylon which gives it extra permeability and makes it easier to breathe. The permeability of the material also makes the mask cooler and more comfortable in warm weather. Its straps are also different in that they are an adjustable loop that hangs around your ears. 

This strap design in addition to the adjustable nose clip gives you extra flexibility when it comes to getting your mask to snug fit your face. Like the Respro and RZ mask, the mask also features exhale valves to deter condensation and fogging. 

The base camp mask’s particulate filters are rated N99 and it also comes with an activated carbon filter for extra protection against exhaust fumes, volatile organic compounds, and various other pollutant vapors and gases. All the mask’s filters are replaceable and the mask’s shell and valves can be washed when they get dirty.

This mask will work well for all outdoor sports activities. I particularly like the Base Camp range of masks because they stand 100% by their product and promise a full refund if you are not happy with your mask for any reason and want to return it. The Base Camp Mask is available here at Amazon.

4. FIGHTECH Dust Mask 

The Fightech Dust Mask is very similar to the Base Camp Mask featuring the same earloop strap design. The mask also comes with activated carbon filters and its particulate filter is rated N99. 

The mask will protect you from most particulate matter including exhaust fumes, industrial emissions, and airborne bacteria among other pollutants.

The mask is unique in that it's made of elastic material which allows it to be adjusted to a snug fit around a wider range of head shapes. Besides the filters, you can also replace not the mask’s exhale valves.

The Fightech mask doubles as an elevation training mask for anyone who would like both the benefit of low oxygen/high altitude training and breathing clean air while doing outdoor sports. Fightech also promises you a full refund if you are not satisfied with their mask. The Fightech Mask is available at Amazon here.

5. U-Mask

The U-Mask is not your typical mask. The mask leverages biotechnology to protect you from air pollution. The beauty of this mask is that it does not even have to be snug fit to protect you. The mask has been tested by European lab standards and proven to protect you better than masks that are rated N99.

As you inhale and exhale the mask attracts air contaminants using a process called molecular charge attraction onto its surface and destroys them using a special biofiltration layer that contains some biodegrading enzymes.

The technology is natural and harmless to humans and the mask will protect you for anywhere between 150-200 hours of continuous usage. 

Its shell is made of eco-friendly nylon and besides the biofiltration layer, it also has a nanofiltration layer for capturing inorganic pollutants before they reach your air passage. Take a look at the U-Mask for yourself on their website.


If you live in a super polluted city or if you are super sensitive to air pollution, the best level of protection you can get beyond the half mask anti-pollution masks I have shown so far is from a gas mask. 

I struggled to find a good gas mask as they are not really designed for sports but eventually I came across MIRA Safety’s masks. These masks are used by national armies and police forces and accordingly are designed for versatility. 

Unfortunately, these gas masks won’t work well if you have to wear a full face or motocross type helmet and you will have to resort to an open face or half face helmet. However, they should be ok for most other sports. 

The mask is made of bromobutyl rubber. It will protect you from all particulate matter and a wide range of harmful and highly toxic airborne substances including all known CBRN agents. Any of the MIRA Safety Mask will work and you can choose as per your need. Check out the MIRA Masks here on their website.

Final Thoughts About Anti-Pollution Masks For Sports

Other things you should keep in mind when you have finally decided to get a pollution mask include scheduling your workouts to times when your outdoor pollution is not so bad and getting a medical check-up to make sure you are fit enough to work out with a mask on.

In many cities around the world, pollution levels tend to get worse in the colder months as more coal is used for energy. So I think it’s wise to move your sports activities indoors during winter where possible. 

If you have to be outdoors, avoid jogging during rush hour traffic. Doing so will wear out your mask faster as there are a lot more pollutants in the air with all the traffic pollution. The first choice is to get busy before all the traffic but if you cannot, try to work out at least an hour after traffic dies down.

You can also get an air quality monitoring device or use an air quality monitoring website to know exactly when the air quality in your city is at its worst and best so you can plan your outdoor sports activities accordingly.

One other thing you should avoid is getting your mask wet. Avoid going out in the rain or water sports whether you are using a gas mask or normal anti-pollution mask. Water will mess up your mask’s filtration system.

As for getting a medical check-up, breathing in a sports mask takes some getting used to and you may find yourself struggling. This is why it’s important to consult with your doctor before getting a mask, especially if you have any breathing problems.

Anti-pollution masks can make breathing trickier and it's not a good idea to wear one for sports if you already battle with breathing. So make sure to get some breathing and lung tests done to make sure  your lungs are fit enough for a filtered mask.

With that said, and if you have gone over this whole post, you now have the knowledge you need to get a decent sports anti-pollution mask and ensure you get the most out of your mask as you workout. Let me know below if you have any questions.

About the Author


Jean is a research economist by profession and he runs Fresh Air Genie. He is enthusiastic about maintaining good air quality at home and on the go and he shares his knowledge about this here at Fresh Air Genie.

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