What is the best mask? Or should I say “most effective”?

Many healthcare organizations recommend wearing masks even outside healthcare facilities. And often we are not talking about medical masks - someone even insists that cloth masks are needed. However, cloth masks have been studied less well than medical masks, and it is not known exactly which ones are more effective. To a large extent, the experts' recommendations are based on the fact that personal protective equipment is not enough for medical workers, and disposable masks should be protected for them. 

Ecoquest will share with you what you need to know when you decide to buy a mask or a respirator in this article.

A medical mask or respirator can both be called screens that act as:

  • Protection. Whether it is your own “bodily fluids” or someone else’s, a mask can prevent it from getting into your nostrils or mouth while you speak.
  • Prevention. A sick person emits viral particles of covid for over 36 days after the onset of symptoms. So it’s probably best to wear a mask publically, once you’ve tested positive for covid.

While scientists around the world argue about how effectively masks protect (is it 95 or 98 percent) governments around the world are demanding that people not leave their homes without them.

Britain’s government pressures citizens to wear either medical masks or cloth masks. However, the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention believes that it is better to opt for medical masks. The University of California also shed some light on the science behind mask-wearing and its efficiency.

Non - sterile personal use masks

These masks have 3 protective layers and are needed to protect others from the source of infection. They have several advantages, the main ones being the very affordable price and the basic level of filtration.

Among the shortcomings, it is worth noting a loose fit, the need to change the mask every 3-4 hours, and unreliable fixation with rubber bands.

One time use masks

These are classic medical masks used by people who have already contracted the virus. They are made of three layers of material and possess the following characteristics:

  • Recommended by the WHO and the FDA
  • Provide a basic level of filtration
  • Permeable to air
  • Acceptable price.
These masks have a number of disadvantages:
  • Single-use;
  • Wearing time - no more than 4 hours;
  • Poor fit and hold.

Colored neoprene masks

This mask is from a budget price segment and is recommended for wearing, both in order to protect against coronavirus and for those who are already sick and pose a potential danger to others.

This one has obvious advantages:

  • Price;
  • Does not dirty easily;
  • Hypoallergenic material;
  • Tight fit;
  • Comfortable wear.

However, neoprene masks also have disadvantages, for example:

  • Low degree of protection;
  • Lack of valve;
  • When worn with glasses, the latter tend to mist up.

What determines the effectiveness of a mask?

The problem is that when using masks in real life, various factors can interfere that will affect the final effectiveness: from the fact that people are uncomfortable using such masks and they ignore the rules for wearing them to the fact that masks quickly get wet thus becoming less effective. 

The denser the fabric, the better?

It is difficult to give any specific recommendations on the choice of fabric, because in different studies, even formally identical fabrics gave very different results.

There are numerous studies that explore the topic of the entire variety of masks made of all kinds of materials. By all means, a DIY mask will never come close to protecting you from viral particles as much as a factory-made respirator would, but that does not at all mean you need to avoid wearing it. Instead, it’s best for each one of us who ignores mask-wearing healthy trends to study this topic closely and come to a healthy conclusion. Whether you pick to stick to a valve mask or a respirator, be sure it will only do you good. 

If the mask does not filter drops well, then perhaps it not only does not help but also makes it worse. In one small study, the tissue appears to have crushed large droplets. As a result, there were more drops in total than when talking without a mask. In theory, this can be harmful, because smaller droplets stay in the air longer, do not fall, and remain a potential source of infection.

On the other hand, if the fabric is too dense and difficult to breathe through, air can escape through the holes on the sides, and the mask itself will quickly become wet and ineffective. To understand how dense the fabric of which the mask is made, you need to look through it - the denser, the worse it will transmit light.

What kind of masks should I choose?

Antibacterial respirators. 

There are three main types of respirators: FFP1, FFP2, FFP3.

  • FFP1 - usually used for protection against non-toxic dust in food, construction, and other industries, retains no more than 80% of harmful substances that are in the air.
  • FFP2 - such respirators can hold no more than 94% of harmful substances in the air, they are used when protection from solid medium toxic dust is needed in various types of industry.
  • FFP3 - these respirators are the most powerful, they can hold up to 99% of harmful substances that are in the air. Such respirators are used where working conditions are considered harsh, where there is a large concentration of respirable dust, including radiation particles. Also, these respirators are applicable where protection from bacteria and viruses is needed. A respirator like that is able to protect against coronavirus, the size of which ranges from 0.4 to 0.5 microns. 

Disposable respirators can be used for no more than 8 hours in a row, after which they must be disposed of! As with the mask, before and after use, be sure to wash or disinfect your hands and never share your respirator with others!

A good means of protection is medical-grade respirators with breathing valves.

They fit the lower part of the face, allowing air to enter only through the filter. Such respirators, along with full-face antibacterial masks, are often worn by doctors in contact with coronavirus patients in infectious diseases hospitals.

This piece of personal virus protection has grown deeply into the mandatory wardrobe of practically everyone on the planet. There are camps, of course. First is the camp that stands by masks strongly, changes one-time use ones on an hourly basis, and carries around extras for those who may be in need of one. Probably as many people treat the whole mask-wearing idea as a joke and only wear their one-time use mask (they bought it six months ago) when someone requests them to. The third camp is an easy-going pack: they are treating this wardrobe essential as a decorative fashion piece. 

By all means, you can use whatever to shield your face from the viral particles. Alternatively, you can use reusable cloth masks. This can significantly save your money since the fabric masks can be washed. Remember that a plastic shield for your eyes is a very important criterion. 

Medical masks. Apart from the above-described professional masks and specialized respirators, the most effective means of protection are ordinary medical masks. In everyday life, they are number one. Their effectiveness is verified during state registration through numerous tests.

Medical masks partially protect the user from viruses entering his respiratory tract and serve as a good barrier between the carrier of the virus and the surrounding space.

Modern disposable medical masks are made from a three-layer material that is characterized by high absorbent properties, while it does not let biologically active liquids, chemical compounds, and fats pass through.

All of these masks are primarily designed to protect the wearer from harmful aerosols and splashes, not to protect the mask wearer from viruses though.

This is due to both the materials and the design - the mask does not fit snugly to the face. On the other hand, thanks to the materials of the masks, they still filter out part of the air during inhalation.

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