Not all Masks are Created Equally!

Not all Masks are Created Equally

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a strong push by government and institutions for the widespread use of masks while out in public. Today, it is required that anyone who is indoors in a public space must wear a mask. However, the word “mask” is being used in a very general term, as it can mean anything from a bandana to a N95 medical grade mask, and with this broad definition there comes some confusion. Many people are unaware about the filter effectiveness of different mask types, and therefore do not know what they should be wearing. A bandana, for example, will never be able to filter very small airborne particles (otherwise called particulates) the same way an N95 mask (generally about 95% effective) will, but not everyone has or needs an N95 mask or respirator. The question then becomes “What should I use instead?”.  This article will provide the information that will allow you to make an informed and practical decision for your situation when deciding what mask to wear.

 

What does Mask Effectiveness mean?

What does Mask Effectiveness mean?

Let us first highlight the concept of mask “effectiveness” or “efficiency”. These two terms have to do with the amount of air and particulates in that air being filtered by a mask. The amount of filtration is usually tied to the materials that make up the mask. It is impossible to have a mask that has 100% efficiency, so even if you see a mask labelled as a N100 respirator, it is “just” filtering 99.97% of the surrounding particulates. Having a mask with a high efficiency will dramatically decrease your odds of inhaling something that can infect you or cause you harm.

In the case of COVID-19, most safety professionals say that anything more than an N95 mask filtration for the general population is overkill. If one does not need or want to wear an N95 mask, there are other masks that perform with about 95% efficiency?

 

What are other good mask options, other than an N95 mask?

What are other good mask options, other than an N95 mask?

There are currently two choices that have a significant lead over all other options. The first is a medical or surgical grade mask. As mentioned in one of our previous articles, medical masks do an excellent job protecting against water droplets or other fluids like blood. Medical masks have three layers or a 3-ply protection, with the innermost layer being made of non-woven polypropylene. These masks are also known as level 3 masks. This inner layer acts like a filter and does a very good job of minimizing the possibility that particulates might infiltrate the mask. In fact, it is currently being recognized that having a level 3 mask, with the innermost layer being a filter, can prove to be very effective, sometimes increasing effectiveness by as much as 30%.

According to CBC’s Marketplace, the other best option right now is a white cotton mask, made of three layers, with the innermost layer once again being made of non-woven polypropylene. This polypropylene being non-woven, or in other words lacking any microscopic holes, is important because the fabric will be tighter, reducing the ability for particulates to find space to move through any gaps. Cotton masks should preferably have a high thread count, as this will reduce the likelihood of gaps. Unfortunately, there are not any current regulations forcing manufacturers to disclose the exact thread count in masks. According to Marketplace, under ideal circumstances these two mask types can perform as well as medical N95 masks in particulate filtration.

 

What other mask options should I avoid or be cautious of?

What other mask options should I avoid or be cautious of

While it seems like two-layer cotton masks with high thread counts and 2-layer polyester masks perform well enough (especially if the innermost layer acts as a filter), there are some other options to be wary of. Masks made of silk have average filtration, while masks made of rayon or sequins do not have high effectiveness. Scarves, bandanas, and gaiters all show up at the bottom of many lists and usually show effectiveness percentages of below 40% or 50%, a measurement that nosedives to about 20% the longer someone is exposed. Finally, masks with valves should be avoided at all costs, and should never be even considered as an option. The area around the valves leak air and particulates way too much, and this defeats the purpose of wearing a mask.

 

I already own some two-layer masks. Should I upgrade to a three-layer mask?

I already own some two-layer masks. Should I upgrade to a three-layer mask?

Having and properly using a level 3 mask is one of the best options when it comes to your safety and the safety of others around you. There are other options as well to consider. There are some two-layer masks that come with an inner pouch of sorts that allows for the easy addition of a filter. Even just adding a filter to the inside of a two-layer mask will substantially improve performance. Some people advise that opening a mask up by one seam and inserting a filter that way is doable. Regardless of what you decide to do, wearing any mask is always better than not wearing a mask.  So, wear a mask!!!!

 

What sort of material can I use as a mask filter?

What sort of material can I use as a mask filter?

There is a surprising number of options when it comes to choosing a homemade solution as a filter. Simply using a folded paper towel can do the job, and among safer options is a dry baby wipe. Some people have used coffee filters, but these can often be too difficult to breathe through. Most non-woven propylene materials are good options, under the condition that they do not contain preservatives or chemicals that can negatively affect health.

 

Is there anything else I need to know about masks, that I should know?

Is there anything else I need to know about masks, that I should know?

Choosing the type and amount of material in a mask is definitely a very important step in being safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, but without a proper fit any type of mask will not function properly. When deciding what mask to wear it is important that you chose one that fits your face properly. Unfortunately, there are a few variables that make it difficult to do this. Firstly, human faces and heads come in so many shapes and sizes, so it is not usually as simple as attaching size measurements to masks. Finding a mask that fits properly over the nose and the chin is necessary to create the appropriate seal. If you ever find that you can feel air hitting the area around your eyes, then your mask may not fit your properly. You either need to fix the fit somehow (some masks can be tightened or loosened according to your needs) or you need to find another mask to wear. Secondly, when buying masks online or instore we are unable to try them on. This can make finding a mask that fits a frustrating and time-consuming process. The most difficult part is finding something that both fits and is made of preferable materials. Once you can do that, you should be very safe.

 

I have an N95 respirator. Where can I do a mask fit test?

If you are wearing an N95 mask for either personal use or for work, then having it a proper fit test is essential to maximize the effectiveness of this mask. If an N95 mask is used at a place of work, it MUST follow Occupational Health and Safety (OHSA) regulations under the Canadian CSA Z94.4-xx standard and all wearers MUST be fit tested properly.

If N95 mask fit testing is required for you or your employees, then this mask fit test program is an example of what needs to be done. In this example, the program uses Qualitative Mask Fit testing to determine whether an N95 mask fits correctly.

References

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SOS First Aid and Safety Training services the following Southern Ontario communities: Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Mississauga, Oakville, Burlington, Milton, Guelph, Vaughan, Woodbridge, Maple, Richmond Hill, Brampton, Acton, Georgetown, Hamilton, Ancaster, Brantford, Stoney Creek, St. Catherines, and Welland.

Customer Reviews

Olena Urbanowicz
Olena Urbanowicz
george hany
george hany
Loved Patrick he was the best! Halirious and informative! Highly recommend him
Nidhi Patel
Nidhi Patel
Vanessa Manocha
Vanessa Manocha
Vineeta Lekhram
Vineeta Lekhram
Eva N
Eva N
The Class was really fun and Patrick made it easy..
Elena Tan
Elena Tan
Excellent traning
Jaspreet kaur
Jaspreet kaur
Elizabeth Levy
Elizabeth Levy
Grace Jung
Grace Jung
Janjan Mangitngit
Janjan Mangitngit
Chantal Amankwaah
Chantal Amankwaah
marina elhamy
marina elhamy
JOYCE YEBOAH
JOYCE YEBOAH
Patrick was a great instructor for the mask fit test, very friendly
Dazel Nelmida
Dazel Nelmida
A really great person! Fun to work with :)
sarah ahmed
sarah ahmed
Katelyn Prudencio
Katelyn Prudencio
It was a fun lesson to learn about masks!
kelly Sun
kelly Sun
Patrick was a very friendly instructor for my N95 mask fit testing and funny too
Magdelina Yimesghen
Magdelina Yimesghen
Amazing mask fit session! Patrick was so kind and informative. He made the session a comfortable place for everyone, answering any and every question we had. I highly suggest coming to this session for your mask fit! I'll definitely be coming back again when my 2 year validation expires. Great job Patrick! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼
Marjorie Tejano
Marjorie Tejano
Cindy Vargas
Cindy Vargas
Nabeeha Tabassum
Nabeeha Tabassum
Lis T
Lis T
Very good and helpful! Very good experience
Priscilla Biju
Priscilla Biju
Ellise Gabrielle Flor
Ellise Gabrielle Flor
Marian Yhane Marcelo
Marian Yhane Marcelo
Diana Jugowiec
Diana Jugowiec
Nya Duarte
Nya Duarte
Patrick is an awesome instructor. Very kind, welcoming and patient. Efficient training done.
Fares Madaoui
Fares Madaoui
Lora Mae Malazarte
Lora Mae Malazarte
Sharmayne MK
Sharmayne MK
Amy Vickramasinghe
Amy Vickramasinghe
Melissa Gray
Melissa Gray
Fox Calamity
Fox Calamity
nelson melo
nelson melo
On August 22nd, 2021 I took my First Aid and Safety Training at the Oak Park Neighborhood Centre and my instructor was amazing. She made the information relevant not just to our everyday life, but to our current situation. She taught in a way that everyone can understand. She answered the questions we had in a words that we understood and in a judgement free environment. Protocols for Covid-19 were in place, we were spaced appropriately and mask were worn, all procedures were done individually with sanitized mannequins. Well done!!
mon olliver
mon olliver
Excellent instructor, very thorough, helpful and friendly
Ranna Manbodh
Ranna Manbodh
Manjit Singh
Manjit Singh
Patrick was courteous, informative and kind. I highly recommend this mask fitting session to anyone who's looking to get their mask certification.
Tu-Anh Nguyen
Tu-Anh Nguyen
Mr. Patrick is understandble regarding instructions.
Frencshield Nuestro
Frencshield Nuestro
Emma Miller
Emma Miller
Renae Campbell
Renae Campbell
Yusra Syeda
Yusra Syeda
Andrea Castro
Andrea Castro
Ellie Burland
Ellie Burland
Arbelyn Marohom
Arbelyn Marohom
Corinna Viscusi
Corinna Viscusi
Lily Kisilevich
Lily Kisilevich
Luzinhel John Marohom
Luzinhel John Marohom
Milly Valdivia
Milly Valdivia
chuks Brian
chuks Brian
Stefano Taglieri
Stefano Taglieri
Super organized and clean.
Sophia M
Sophia M
Julia Romano
Julia Romano
Lily Li
Lily Li
Amazing class! Great instructor!
destiny sight
destiny sight
I had Ally for my CPR course. She was very friendly, professional and made the day long course feel enjoyable. Thanks so much! Would recommend
Austin Paliga
Austin Paliga
Alicia Anderson
Alicia Anderson
Sadika Dougheili
Sadika Dougheili
Brittany F
Brittany F
Had an Amazing Experience!!! Patrick is so informative and helpful, I recommend taking this class👍
Kiran Imran
Kiran Imran
Merry Kamel
Merry Kamel
Julianna Ebarvia
Julianna Ebarvia
Gerbie Nkosi
Gerbie Nkosi
The test was very well explained 👏 👌. Will recommend to others.Excellent instructor !!
Joyous Joy
Joyous Joy
kind guy patrick thank you
likkledianito
likkledianito
Sharalee Solomon
Sharalee Solomon
Amazing fun experience
Arian A
Arian A
Trae Colley
Trae Colley
S Pbailee
S Pbailee
Lee Ann
Lee Ann
Tyson has been a great instructor. He answered questions in detail and made it a comfortable learning environment. 10/10 would recommend!Course was completed at the Mississauga site.
Tiffanie Christopher
Tiffanie Christopher
Tyson was a great instructor!! Very informative and also shared some stories.
Diana “dayana” Hosien
Diana “dayana” Hosien
the training was educational, and the facilitator was knowledgeable and at ease with the group.
Andrea Jantoska
Andrea Jantoska
Tyson was the best instructor one could hope for. He took his time to go through the material and was really hands on. I thought the class was going to be long and boring but I actually ended up having fun and I feel 100% prepared to help in an emergency situation.
Alake Mills
Alake Mills
Had a First Aid/CPR-C course at the living arts centre and it was great. Was very informative and our instructor Tyson really tried to make it an engaging and enjoyable day
Myles Abreo
Myles Abreo
It was nice to met Patrick sacco
Raghad Baraket
Raghad Baraket
I attended a Mask Fit Testing class and my instructor, Patrick, was amazing! He was very outgoing and made everyone feel comfortable and relaxed while telling us about the important information we needed to know. I highly recommend!
Keiyana Campbell
Keiyana Campbell
Amrit Rehsi
Amrit Rehsi
Yuliia Bilous
Yuliia Bilous
Mario Sacco was a very enthusiastic instructor. Very pleasant.
Katrina K
Katrina K
It was a good experience. Partick Sacoo is a good instructor.
amandeep khurana
amandeep khurana
Class was as fun as first aid can be. Tyson was an awesome instructor.
Daniel Tchitchkevitch
Daniel Tchitchkevitch
Awesome teacher, made it light and fun. Great job Tyson.Multiple dates available - easy to flex with personal schedule
Tasha Singh
Tasha Singh
Such a great experience completing my mask fit training with SOS First Aid. Mario was very informative and kept the class entertaining!
Rachel Hunter
Rachel Hunter
I came here for my First Aid and CPR HCP/BLS level. The theory portion was hybrid and the practical was in person at Living Arts Centre. The training was well organized and very informative. They provide everything that you will need for the training. I will definitely come back when I have to renew my certification.
Natalie
Natalie
Well my experience was a bit scary because I was not mentally prepared. At first I thought I was going to pass out but then I was able to withstand the smell of what the instructor was spraying into the mask. I thought I would pass out at first when I had on the N-95 mask but then I realize that it was doable and I can tolerate the test. Good luck.
Avril Jones
Avril Jones
I had an amazing experience . The instructor was respectful and the course is wonderful.
Samantha S
Samantha S
thank you:) i enjoyed it and i met an awesome instructor
Bonu Satimova
Bonu Satimova
Friendly, informative and efficient.
Vinita H.C.
Vinita H.C.
Skirt skirt
Skirt skirt
Lauren Trevors
Lauren Trevors
Sydney
Sydney
Dania
Dania
Krista Pearce
Krista Pearce
Herleen Mudher
Herleen Mudher
Just completed my training with Julie. She was fantastic, knowledgeable and very patient. She has so much experience and she trained us so well. SOS First Aid and Safety Training are true professionals and care so much for us to succeed and that is key. Keep up the great work. Thank you so much Julie:)
Amanuel Sengal
Amanuel Sengal
Well organized, excellent instructors for Remote First Aid Training. I would highly recommend SOS for training.
Kim Macdonald
Kim Macdonald
hannah zanetti
hannah zanetti
H Elbahu
H Elbahu

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Effective Sept 22/2021: In accordance with Ontario Government regulations, SOS First Aid requires proof of vaccination along with valid ID for all participants attending SOS First Aid classes at our public locations. Participants can download proof of vaccination from theOntario Government Portal