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

Contact

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

Some details weren’t covered, like how fast do you administer compressions.
Andrea Cristini
Andrea Cristini
Great speaker, well paced classes.
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Great Basic Life Support Instructor Recert class with Jen Ngo. Very interactive and stress-free!
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Great BLS instructor revert with Jennifer. Thank you!
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Thank you Michelle for making class exciting, engaging and most importantly informative.
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Michelle is really amazing. I learn quiet a bit with her lessons cannot wit to re-take the course every year and hopefully I get to be in her class!!
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Michelle was knowledgeable and super engaging with many experiences to share. I feel confident to provide emergency first aid if needed. Thank you!
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Michelle was lovely! Her personal anecdotes made the material memorable and made what could have been a very long boring day, fun. Thank you!
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Ioana Popescu
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manvi gambhir
Mr. Pounall made the experience extremely educating, while entertaining with his jokes every now and then. For the future he should work on enhancing his stand up comedy career and making a few global tours to make this 5 stars a 6 star.
Patrick L
Patrick L
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Leonard Dsouza
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Noman jamal
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Thalia
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Jessamyn Bickle
Wonderful experience! Allyson , the instructor was very resourceful & up to date. Enjoyed thoroughly. A great learning experience.
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Dipalee Vajaria
sanja c
sanja c
Prakash Nagar is a great program host/teacher. 10/10 recommended 🙌🏻
Mae Suliguin
Mae Suliguin
The mask fit certification was professional and very thorough. I really liked Patrick, the mask fit specialist. He's very knowledgeable, really personable and fun. The Kingbridge Garden Circle location is also very accessible, clean and ample free parking. I was really pleased with the session.
Rita Ganassini
Rita Ganassini
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purna desar
Amazing teacher so well done
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Samantha Kazanczuk
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Mariel Mendoza
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Lisa Pim (Lcp)
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Johnny pimentel
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melanie cianci
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Pamela A
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Laurie Gallant
SOS First Aid and Safety Training is a wonderful organization! 🙏Speaking to Velma in many occasions, and meeting the instructor, Peggy, was enlightening as they assured me that my daughter, Mariella would receive accommodations achieving her First Aid and CPR Level C certification with support. 🥰 Being a parent who advocates for their child when in need is so important. ✅ Being heard and supported is truly amazing! 🦋 Every child, teenager, or adult learns is his or her own way. 💕Hopefully, people continue to see, acknowledge, and remember that everyone is special and there must be patience, empathy, and compassion for each person in any life situation! 👏🏼 Being able to obtain this certificate is a milestone for a 14 Year Old who said, “Mom, I could have had a day off on Saturday, and it is a class with adults! —-and we had to study an entire manual full of too many modules!!!” ☺️ Again, much gratitude and thanks to Velma and Peggy at SOS First Aid for the extra time and support given to my daughter. 🦋 Not only did the girls learn how to save lives, they learned how to adapt and persevere! Dream Big! 🙏
Mary Jane Guibao Wheeler
Mary Jane Guibao Wheeler
Purvi Desai
Purvi Desai
Very informative session. Patrick did a good job at making it fun.
Maria Jaramillo
Maria Jaramillo
Rebecca Keane
Rebecca Keane
Kacy Knight
Kacy Knight
Patrick was a great instructor!
Alifiya Al-Harazi
Alifiya Al-Harazi
Courtney Priest-Brown
Courtney Priest-Brown
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Blood Orange Beauty
Jon
Jon
Michelle k was amazing learned alot of good things, I found she was verry thorough and to the point, realy enjoyed and would recommend the class to my peers
Tevin Taylor
Tevin Taylor
Youngwon Kim
Youngwon Kim
Great course! Loved the instructor Mr.Nagar (I think) he was funny and provided great real life instructions and examples.
Divya Sharma
Divya Sharma
Patrick was a great instructor for N95 mask fitting test. Thanks for the great experience.
ahmad kd
ahmad kd
Patrick was great. Class was easy to understand and they were well prepared with copies of sheets and allowed e transfer payments for those who needed a mask provided which was very helpful.
Marina Naalband
Marina Naalband
Arielle U
Arielle U
It was amazing experience and Patrick was helpful .
Alia Mohamed
Alia Mohamed
Sarah Fox
Sarah Fox
The instructor Patrick was very pleasant and engaging. He explained the content clearly and was very knowledgeable about the topic.
Georgianna Kelly
Georgianna Kelly
Mary Jane Gambito
Mary Jane Gambito
Excellent session. Patrick explained everything clearly.
Rohini Telang
Rohini Telang
Patrick Sacco completed my N95 mask fit test and was very kind and knowledgeable. He explained the procedure and was very informative.
Conida Halley
Conida Halley
Oneisha Donaldson
Oneisha Donaldson
George El Khal
George El Khal
Eubelyn Pagayon
Eubelyn Pagayon
Ai T
Ai T
Instructor Michelle is lovely, knowledgeable, had a wealth of personal experiences to share to make the first aid material relatable and accessible. Velma always has a great team and I'm always happy to update my trainings with SOS every time.
Kim FB
Kim FB
Paul McNeil
Paul McNeil
Good place to do Mask fit test and pcr.Kind and generous instructor specially patrick
harshil patel
harshil patel
Fantastic instructor. Clear, easy to understand instructions. Very friendly.
Lisa Hickey
Lisa Hickey
SHREYA PATEL
SHREYA PATEL
Patrick Sacco was very thorough with the N95 testing!
Krystal Goulbourne
Krystal Goulbourne
Kaleigh Redel
Kaleigh Redel
Instructor is very energetic and have a good energy through out the training. Recommended.
Anthea Katon
Anthea Katon
Great way of educating, clear, good
maggie abrahem
maggie abrahem
Rodica Suciu
Rodica Suciu
Jahnvi patel
Jahnvi patel
Brianna Zuniga
Brianna Zuniga
KHUSHALI PATEL
KHUSHALI PATEL
Patrick was awesome! Great demonstration! He was fun, funny and made the test enjoyable. Totally recommend!!
Gaurav A
Gaurav A
levent sevim
levent sevim
Paul and Elizabeth Gilbert
Paul and Elizabeth Gilbert
The instructor Patrick was super friendly
Dr. Harsh Parikh
Dr. Harsh Parikh
Jackie Ruvalcaba
Jackie Ruvalcaba
Dorothy Murray
Dorothy Murray
E Aquino
E Aquino
Abbey Garant
Abbey Garant
The instructor (Mitchell)was amazing.
vennah tondoya
vennah tondoya
A fast and friendly fit test experience. Patrick Sacco was nice and very informative. Thanks!
Arianna Mailloux
Arianna Mailloux
HARPREET KAUR
HARPREET KAUR
WASIM SASSILA
WASIM SASSILA
Jyoti Syroop
Jyoti Syroop
Dazzel Roco
Dazzel Roco
Jasdeep Bains
Jasdeep Bains
Patrick was great!
Abena Agyeman
Abena Agyeman
Juliana De Oliveira
Juliana De Oliveira
Awesome instructors, the class was so enjoyable and easy to understand!
Arthi Siva
Arthi Siva
De Muffin
De Muffin
Mobs_ Nishikino
Mobs_ Nishikino
9th Oakville Trafalgar Beavers
9th Oakville Trafalgar Beavers
Somanpreet Kaur
Somanpreet Kaur
Fatima Albaiti
Fatima Albaiti
Beep Beep Sheep
Beep Beep Sheep
John Smill
John Smill
Danny Yousif
Danny Yousif
parveen jolly
parveen jolly
Baburajan Sundaram
Baburajan Sundaram
Jeremy Huang
Jeremy Huang
Instructor Jessica was really cool. She explains clearly and effectively. Enjoyed learning with her.
nu mai
nu mai
Mihir Khatri
Mihir Khatri
zia haq
zia haq
Monica R
Monica R
Andrew McCulloch
Andrew McCulloch
Praka is an amazing teacher very easy to follow along with, funny and helpful. As well as the organization is very hands on and nice with customers
shawn nassir
shawn nassir
Manuel Filla
Manuel Filla
Darryl Sinclair
Darryl Sinclair
PakTo Kwok
PakTo Kwok
caroline martyn belchior
caroline martyn belchior
Ian Dawson
Ian Dawson
Instructor Patrick Succo was very helpful and led a great, in-depth N95 mask fit class.
kathleenlindsay97
kathleenlindsay97
Cloey Lymburner
Cloey Lymburner
Vaishali Damor
Vaishali Damor
Tracy
Tracy
Adam Casey
Adam Casey
Maaria A
Maaria A
Very good
Diana Kubi
Diana Kubi
Wonderful and well detailed! Thanks Patrick!
jemila binkola
jemila binkola
Class was well structured and the instructor was well educated and friendly
Sarah Fletcher
Sarah Fletcher
Iulia Roman
Iulia Roman
Patrick was amazing! Super intelligent and helpful. I'll definitely be returning when my mask fit expires and need to renew.
Julia Abbate
Julia Abbate
Patrick Sacco was amazing!!
kiana saquing
kiana saquing
Patrick was an excellent instructor for mask fit testing, he is very knowledgeable and informative. Definitely recommend sos first aid and safety training for mask fit testing.
Patricia Seyffert
Patricia Seyffert
Emily Hsiao
Emily Hsiao
Great experience! Patrick is awesome! Thanks again for helping me with my N95 mask fit test!
Julia Fabro
Julia Fabro
Excellent and very friendly. Really enjoyed the class
Tamika Bramwell
Tamika Bramwell

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