Unmasking protective mask types to prevent coronavirus and more

You can bitch, moan, or debate about PPP and PPE. Wearing a protective mask and pair of gloves during a horrible disease pandemic is a necessary prophylactic, both courteous and wise. What were once used as options in factories, medical and science offices are now more essential wearables in a world where tiny microbes coexist with us through an invisible masks.

People tend to shy from using prophylactics such as a protective mask. Another form of prophylactic is use of a condom. The global rate of unintended pregnancy was estimated at 44% of all pregnancies between 2010 and 2014, corresponding to approximately 62 unintended pregnancies per 1000 women between the ages of 15–44 years old. One in two sexually active persons will contract an STI by age 25. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly 20 million new STIs occur every year in this country, half of those among young people aged 15–24. Yet the use of condoms as a prophylactic measure remains constant.

We take our breathing and our respiratory health for granted, but the lung is a vital organ that is vulnerable to airborne infection and injury. Respiratory diseases are leading causes of death and disability in the world. Coronavirus-19 barely comes close to those numbers but ranks high among infectious, contagious diseases. Virus based colds are varied. Flu is a common, common cold. Discovery and use of flu vaccines help make incidence less common. Each year new viruses develop and attack unprotected immune systems. According to CDC, about 400,000 patents were hospitalized with a viral infection, each year, over the past decade. Many of those patients died because of respiratory issues that occured prior to flu.

Wearing a protective mask and gloves, especially in dense populations, may prevent these “colds” from spreading to others. Or prevent their colds spreading to you. Sneezes and coughs spread droplets of microbes and some are infectious. Using a hand or sleeve to cover a sneeze is no sure way of filtering spread to others or to items they carry. Viruses are tiny microbes. They are about 1/3 of 1 micron in size. If you lined them on a ruler, there might be over 100,000 to an inch. A protective mask helps filter viruses from entering nose and mouth. What was optional in the 20th century seems more reasonable in the 21st. Microscopes that discovered tiny microbes (electron microscopes) were more accessible to labs in the 1960’s. Perhaps there’s a lesson we should learn during this pandemic. A protective mask, gloves, and some proportionate social distancing may help humans survive better into the 22nd century. Scientists have only been glimpsing into sub-micron sized particles for the past 50 years and their behaviors.

There are many protective masks. Let’s explore a few. There are basics: homemade cloth face mask, surgical mask {procedure and respirator), N95/N98/N99?N100 respirator.Many are made of paper and are disposable. Some are plastic and N100 is notably metallic. On those masks there are filters (often carbon) that are replaceable.

A surgical/procedure mask is a 3-layer to 5-layers protective sheet, rectangular, with ear loops or head-straps. The are usually common and affordable. Most masks worn during routine medical exams are also found in nail salons. This mask is a loose-fitting disposable mask that protects the wearer’s nose and mouth from contact with droplets, splashes and sprays that may contain germs. A surgical mask also filters out large particles in the air. Surgical masks may protect others by reducing exposure to the saliva and respiratory secretions of the mask wearer. These generally do not have FDA approval for surgical use. They are fine for l;leisure walking, short periods, with social distancing. Protection might be 70 to 90% and are comfortable.

There are fabric masks, usually handmade or fashionable, that function like procedure masks. They tend to protect from colder weather. They are seen as bandanas and scarves as well. Fabrics must be very tightly woven to offer protective mask protection. Mesh won’t do. So inappropriate for summer wear.

Cloth masks may be custom designed and laundered. Cloth masks are cheap and simple to make. Must be tightly stitched as microns get through. CDC offers designs for no-sew that may provide very near to N95 efficiency.

More appropriate for surgery, N95 mask offers more protection than a surgical mask does because it can filter out both large and small particles. The name indicates that the mask is designed to block 95% of very small particles. Like surgical masks, N95 masks are intended to be disposable. However, researchers are testing ways to disinfect N95 masks so they can be reused. These are costlier than procedure masks. Essential oil sprays (tea tree, oregano, eucalyptus) may be antiviral for longer durability but studies are thin. I’dd feel better if surgeon disposes of old masks. For tightest protection, the N95 protective mask manufacturers advise head-straps over ear-loops, clean-shaven instead of beards.

You may have heard of N98, N99, and N100 as a protective mask label. Often respirators with added filters, these may be used by doctors but are more common for use in areas of extreme toxic chemicals. The difference between N95, N99 and N100 masks is simply the filter’s efficiency level. N95 filters 95% of particulates and N99 filters 99% of particulates on the air. The higher the efficiency, the more particulates respirator will filter out. That means microns are virtually filtered.

N100 masks are designed to protect the wearer from inhaling non-oil-based particulates, and according to OSHA standards, they must prevent 99.97 percent of those particulates from getting in when properly worn. The larger, bulky N100 protective mask is designed to block dangerous hazards like lead, cadmium, arsenic and methylenedianiline, commonly referred to as MDA. All the N100 masks usually are NIOSH-approved.

There are also P100 respirator protective mask types. P100 respirators are effective at blocking 99.97 percent of oil-based particulates when properly worn. They can protect wearers from exposure to dust, fumes and hazardous mists. P100 masks are ideal for construction environments, food processing plants, agricultural applications and pharmaceutical manufacturing. They also provide complete protection against non-oil-based particulates, like lead, arsenic and cadmium. P100 respirators are often used during welding, as well.

A protective mask may be created anywhere. Many are manufactured in Asia. The ways to help a consumer find the best protective mask is by regulating standards. You’ve probably heard of OSHA before, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. NIOSH and OSHA are two sides of the same coin; they are different organizations, but they were both founded with the same act, and they work together to tackle the problem of workplace hazards. Yet, it’s likely that most of the masks used during the Coronavirus-19 pandemic were not manufactured to these standards.

NIOSH is a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. They tend to work more on the research and health side of things. That’s why they’re relevant for masks and respirators; they care about things like air pollution and environmental hazards and safety. So, expect NIOSHA to be recommended by the CDC.

So…many of the disposable procedure and N95 masks may NOT be as efficient as claimed. It’s possible they were designed for cosmetic applications and food preparation instead of medical use. Theoretically, use of a protective mask and a pair of gloves, along with reasonable social distance may help keep some infectious flu microns away.

There are man points and counterpoints about how to live in a world with coronavirus. Habitually wearing a protective mask and pair of gloves when outdoors is your first shield against microbial infections. During a pandemic, epidemic, or “cold” seasons these are prophylactic measures to improve wellness. Yes, you can gamble your health with many things other than microbes. I think wearing a suitable protective mask is a safety net with degrees of assurance.

Coronavirus-19 means there were previous coronaviral sources of the flu. Vaccines contain protection from those. The current microbe is a recmutation. It may not be in every breath you take or in any breath you take or anything you touch but can be encountered, especially among crowds of people. Some, only few have flu-like symptoms and, of those, may be unaware that they are carriers. Using a protective mask and gloves might help reduce the spread of infection.

I think that beyond wearing masks and gloves routinely, social distancing and quarantines may not be necessary. People need liberty to socialize and go places. In cold seasons, I’d advise wearing masks and gloves as a health and fashion ethic. Yet, we see that people don’t use condoms, don’t diet, don’t exercise. Mutual reciprocity in relationships must proximally overcome social barriers. A protective mask needs to become an ethical part of your wardrobe. You are not over-reacting if you use a protective mask within a vetting process. It is mutual protection of the other. Wearing a protective mask and gloves are not punishments. They help prevent disease spread for you and for others.

Respiratory illnesses cost the U.S. economy roughly $40 billion a year — substantially more than other conditions like asthma, heart failure, and emphysema. There are larger numbers when you add non-viral and viral expenses and sick days. Yet group dynamics prove that people don’t follow rules or ethics. You shouldn’t be forced to wear a protective mask if you’re willing to sin against harming others and/or self. Infectious diseases are humanity’s bane. A protective mask and responsible distancing help keep societies and businesses in balance. Let debaters continue to debate with or without masks. Viruses will mutate further. Left futures decide and predict whether these masks may be more necessary than now.