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Item flying off the shelves amid bushfires

Face masks are flying off shelves in Sydney as smoke blankets parts of the state. Source: Getty

Sydney-siders are rushing to stores to purchase face masks, but quickly finding most major chains have sold out as smoke from bushfires blankets the state.

At least two stores from Chemist Warehouse and OfficeWorks in the Sydney CBD told media they had sold out, and Yahoo Finance found Bunnings in Sydney’s inner-west was struggling to keep up with demand.

Yahoo Finance visited the Bunnings Alexandria store to find boxes of N95/P2 face masks completely empty, but have since been informed the store has replenished stocks.

A staff member told Yahoo Finance she had “never seen this before”.

It comes as the air pollution epidemic in Sydney and across New South Wales was deemed the longest and most widespread on record, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment announced this week.

“The impacts of the ongoing drought and recent bushfires have led to some of the highest levels of air pollutants recorded in NSW since air quality monitoring began during the millennium drought,” a department spokesperson told Yahoo News.

But while affected residents are flocking to purchase face masks, many are finding they don’t actually work.

Postdoctoral research at Queensland University of Technology, Tom Cole-Hunter, said the majority of masks worn to combat air pollution were ineffective.

“These cloth or surgeon masks are not effective, they’re only effective against disease or infections spread through aerosols and water droplets.”

But one type of mask, the N95/P2 mask, is effective in blocking smoke particles if applied correctly.

According to the Queensland Department of Health, the masks work so well because they are capable of filtering 0.3µm particles - tiny ash-like particles. 

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