Since the outbreak, people in China and elsewhere have flocked to local pharmacies to buy medical masks. But there are different types of masks on the market, not all of them are effective against this virus. So, which masks can really protect?
Do you know which masks is useless?
The following four types of masks are not effective for COVID-19: sponge masks, cotton masks, paper masks, activated carbon masks. These types of masks can only shield dust, particles, and the density of the masks is greater than the size of the virus, so these types of masks are ineffective for COVID-19.
Now for you the most important is which is useful?
Surgical Masks vs. Respirators
There are two different types of masks: surgical masks and respirators.
Surgical masks are disposable medical devices that can be bought in pharmacies and prevent infectious diseases from spreading through “droplets.” “When the wearer exhales, these droplets may be saliva or secretions from the upper respiratory tract.
If worn by a caregiver, the surgical mask protects the patient and his or her environment (air, surface, equipment, surgical site). If worn by an infectious patient, it prevents the patient from contaminating his or her surroundings. Masks should not be worn for more than 3 to 8 hours.
Surgical masks can also protect the wearer from the danger of splashing biological fluids. In this case, the surgical mask must have a waterproof layer. It can also be equipped with a sun visor to protect the eyes.
However, surgical masks cannot prevent “airborne” infectious diseases, so it cannot prevent the wearer from being infected by viruses such as coronavirus.
A protective mask is a personal protective device that prevents the wearer from inhaling harmful aerosols (dust, smoke, mist), steam or gases (disinfectants, anesthetic gases). Do not use when dispensing, to protect the wearer from airborne infectious diseases such as coronavirus, atypical pneumonia, H1N1 and other viruses.
Respirators are divided into two categories: insulated and filtered. The filter respirator consists of a mask and a filtering device. Sometimes the filter element is integrated into the mask. Depending on the type of filtration, this mask is effective only for particulates, only for certain gases and vapors, or for particulates, gases, and vapors.
Filtered respirators can sometimes be equipped with a breathing valve to increase user comfort. The valve can prevent condensation in the mask, make water mist on the glasses, and help users breathe conveniently.
It is worth noting that the respirator also protects the wearer from inhaling the “droplets” of infectious pathogens. The respirator can be used once or repeatedly. In the second case, you can replace the filter when it is full.
What Are the Standards?
Both masks are subject to standards and regulations in different countries or geographic regions.
Medical masks are tested in the direction of exhalation (from inside to outside). These tests consider the efficiency of bacterial filtration.
In Europe, they must comply with the European standard EN 14683, which has 3 levels of bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE1, BFE2 type R). In the United States, they must respect ASTM standards with three levels of protection (from low exposure to liquids to high risk exposures to liquids).
Respiratory masks are tested in the direction of inspiration (from outside to inside). The test takes into account the efficiency of the filter and leakage to the face.
In Europe, they must comply with the European standard EN 149: 2001, which has three disposable particulate masks (FFP1, FFP2, and FFP3).
- FFP1 refers to the least filtered of the three types of masks, with an aerosol filtration rate of at least 80% and a leakage of up to 22%. This mask is mainly used for dust masks (home improvement and various tasks).
- FFP2 masks have a minimum filtration rate of 94% and a maximum leakage rate of 8%. They are used primarily by construction, agriculture and health care professionals to fight the flu virus. They are currently used to prevent coronavirus.
- FFP3 mask is the most filtered mask in ffp. They have a minimum filtration rate of 99% and an internal leakage rate of up to 2%, preventing very fine particles such as asbestos.
So, Which Masks Protect Against Coronavirus?
Patients with infectious diseases should wear surgical masks as soon as possible when they suspect infectious diseases.
In Europe, caregivers must wear at least FFP2 or FFP3 respirators when caring for infected or suspected infections in order to maximize the filtration of particulate matter and aerosols.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the N95 respirator can filter 95% of particulates in the air, and can even filter out bacteria and viruses. Therefore, it is necessary for the nursing staff to wear N, R or P type respirators.
This table will help you learn more about different useful types of masks
Should a Disposable or Reusable Mask be Used?
Medical masks are disposable medical devices that must be handled in an appropriate manner after use. Respirators (FFP / N, R or P) can be disposable or reusable. In the second case, you can replace the filter when it is full.
The useful life of a surgical mask or respirator is provided by the manufacturer. It varies for different uses. Generally speaking, the pollution time is between 3 and 8 hours according to a series of external factors such as the concentration of pollutants and air humidity, temperature, and the amount of air inhaled.
For a respirator equipped with a gas filter, if the wearer begins to smell the gas, he must immediately leave the work area and replace the filter. Similarly, in the case of a dust removal filter, if the wearer starts to feel an increase in suction power, he or she should leave the place and replace the filter. These masks are mainly worn by workers or firefighters who come into contact with chemicals.