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At the start of 2020, the CDC (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommended for the general public to wear face masks and cloth coverings and today they are part of our daily lives.
The N95 and surgical masks (medical-grade masks) are reserved for first responders and healthcare workers because they're the most effective and in high demand.
However, the general public can protect themselves and others by using the recommended face masks and coverings.
Face Masks: Types
- N95 Masks - Snug covering and breathable. Offers the most protection from airborne particles and liquid contamination. It's a medical-grade mask and reserved for healthcare workers
- Procedure/Surgical Masks - Looser fit and breathable. It protects from water drops and saliva, as well as some small particles. It has 3-ply layers with a filter. It's medical-grade and reserved for healthcare workers
- 3-Ply Face Masks - Looser fit, readily available with 3 layers inside and commonly disposable. The main difference between a medical-grade 3-ply surgical mask and an ordinary 3-ply mask is the middle layer, the filter which may be nonexistent or ineffective. Always look for a filter and test its absorption to check its effectiveness
- Fashion, Homemade Cloth Masks, & Coverings - Snug or loose fitted depending on the mask. Available in a variety of materials, styles, colors. They're mainly effective for pollution and dust. They are non-medical-grade, and cannot protect against viruses. Furthermore, these masks are still recommended by the CDC to the general public along with social distancing
Face Masks: The Research
According to the ACS Publication, (American Chemical Society) research shows that not all cloth masks offer the same effectiveness and improper wearing of any mask can decrease filtration efficiency.
“...gaps (as caused by an improper fit of the mask) can result in over a 60% decrease in filtration efficiency, implying the need for future cloth mask design studies to take into account issues of “fit” and leakage, while allowing the exhaled air to vent efficiently. Combinations of various commonly available fabrics used in cloth masks can potentially provide significant protection against the transmission of aerosol particles..."
Likewise, when it comes to masks it’s important to consider the following:
- You should wear a mask to slow the spread of COVID-19
- Buy masks with a filter or the option to insert one if you can
- You should wear your mask around your nose and mouth, or you decrease your chances of protection
- Your mask should have a design with more than one layer of fabric, whether or not it has a filter
- Your mask should be breathable and snug-fitting around the edges
Finally, you should always consider the fabric, filter, and fit in the design. These 3 characteristics create an effective mask for the general public.