How to Choose the Right Face Mask to Protect Yourself From Haze
Using the wrong face mask not only gives a false sense of security, but may also put your life at risk. Learn to pick the face mask that is right for you in this article.
The sale of face masks has picked up significantly ever since Singapore was blanketed by smoke from Indonesia on Monday, 17 June 2013. Stocks for face masks have reportedly sold out in a number of stores and are yet to be replenished.
But some common face masks available in stores may not provide sufficient protection against haze particles. Every face mask is constructed for a specific purpose, and choosing the wrong one will only give a false sense of security and little real life protection.
Below we look at some common face masks and offer some suggestions on the right masks you should get:
Surgical MasksCommon surgical masks shown in the diagram are meant to catch the wearer’s own bodily fluids, such as saliva and nasal discharge, and prevent any infectious liquid droplets from spreading to others.
They are not designed to protect you from inhaling airborne bacteria, viruses and fine particles.
Surgical masks typically have two straps, one on each side, that hook over the ears. Some may come with one strap that goes above the ears.
A surgical mask should be worn if you are down with a cold, flu, or cough, and when you are working with patients.
Surgical masks cannot provide adequate protection against fine particles present in smoke and haze.
Source: © 2010-2020 Bliss Air
Respirators, also known as particulate respirators, are devices designed to protect the wearer from inhaling harmful dusts, fumes, vapors or gases.
There are two main forms of respirators: disposable and reusable.
Disposable N95 RespiratorDisposable respirators are masks that have the word “NIOSH” and either “N95“, “N99“, “N100“, “R95“, “R99“, “R100“, “P95“, “P99” or “P100” printed on them.
The number indicates the minimum amount of airborne particles (in percentage) that the respirator is able to filter. For instance, if a respirator is “N95” certified, it means it can filter at least 95% of particles that do not contain oil.
Disposable respirators, such as 3M N95 Particulate Respirator, should come with at least two straps that go around the head, one above the ears and one below. This ensures a tighter and closer fit to prevent particles from seeping through any loose gap.
It is important to wear the mask snugly over your nose and under your chin. A mask that is worn loosely will not give adequate protection.
When used properly, a disposable respirator can protect you from smoke and haze.
Reusable Respirator with P100 filtersExamples of reusable respirators are those used by firefighters and people who work with dangerous chemicals. They come in either full face or half face.
Reusable respirators that come with air purifying feature, such as the half face particulate respirator shown in the picture, can be fitted with different types of filters to provide the level of protection that you need. For example, the pink filters used in the respirator shown is P100-certified.
Reusable respirators come in a few different sizes, usually small, medium and large, to fit different faces. That said, they are usually not meant to fit the small face of young kids.
One major advantage reusable respirators have over disposable ones is that they conform better to the curves of the face, giving a tighter and more comfortable seal (and hence better protection) than disposable respirators.
Unlike disposable respirators, filters on reusable respirators also last longer, can be used multiple times and can be replaced easily.
Some reusable respirators can even be connected to an alternative air supply, such as a high-pressure gas tank, to completely eliminate any chances of inhaling toxic particles.
When used properly, reusable respirators offer the best protection against haze and smoke.
The world is facing a shortage of masks and other protective equipment against the new coronavirus, the head of the World Health Organization warned on Friday, February 7th. Surgical masks are especially in demand. But are they really effective? What kind of masks actually protect against Covid-19?
Kolmi-Hopen is one of the major manufacturers of single-use medical products. Under normal circumstances, their facility in France makes 150 million surgical masks and over 20 million respirators per year. Today, with the rising demand, they have been requested to make over 500 million masks altogether. This is what Gérald Heuliez, managing director of Kolmi-Hopen, told French news agency AFP. In the meantime, companies like Foxconn have said they would make 20 million masks by the end of this month to face the world demand.
Since the outbreak, people in China and in the rest of the world have rushed to their local pharmacies to get surgical masks. But there are different types of masks on the market, and not all of them are really effective against this virus. So, which masks actually offer protection?
A contagious patient should wear a surgical mask as soon as contagion is suspected.
In Europe, for caregivers, it is necessary to wear a respirator of at least class FFP2 or FFP3 for maximum filtration of particles and aerosols when caring for a patient who is infected or suspected of being so.
In the United States, the N95 respirator filters 95% of airborne particles, and can even filter out bacteria and viruses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So for caregivers, it is necessary to wear a respirator of class N, R or P.
Should a Disposable or Reusable Mask be Used?
Honeywell respirator with removable filters (Credit: Honeywell)
Surgical masks are disposable medical devices that must be disposed of in the appropriate manner after use. Respirators (FFP / N, R or P) can be disposable or reusable. In the second case, it is possible to replace the filter when it is full.
The effective life of a surgical mask or a respirator is indicated by the manufacturer. It varies according to use. Generally speaking, it can range from three to eight hours depending on the concentration of the contaminant and a series of external factors such as air humidity, temperature, volume of air breathed in, etc.
For respirators equipped with gas filters, if the wearer begins to perceive the smell of gas, he or she must immediately leave the work area and replace the filter. Similarly in the case of dust filters, if the wearer begins to perceive an increase in inspiratory effort, he or she should leave the premises and replace the filter. These masks are mainly worn by people working in contact with chemicals or by firefighters.
Source: MedicalExpo e-Magazine © 2020