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.

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This is the First Aid course to be on board with.Ally led today’s instruction! What an amazing instructor who uses her teaching to cater to various learning styles and effectively gets the training done. So appreciative. Very grateful. Thank you!
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I really enjoyed the class. The lectures were understandable. It was a pleasure to be here today. I have a say personally, our instructor was very nice person.
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Prakash was an amazing instructor! I have taken this course twice before, but felt like I learnt the most this time around. I was a lot more comfortable doing the sling wrappings.
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Great teacher and comfortable place
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i can say i have the knowledge and confidence to give primary care whenever wherever needed if possible. Recognize and prioritize.i appreciate the way Mr. Prakash Nagar provided knowledge in a cool and stress free environment to the students.
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Very informative and full of knowledge. Knows exactly how to deliver an information and to make you remember it. Thank Mr. pakash.
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The class was very smooth and you learn alot on basic life support.
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Niya xoxo
Very good instructor, explains everything in detail with explanations.
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Priyanka Manjunath
Had a training session with Patty for Standard First Aid and BLS. She was amazing, made the class fun and entertaining definitely hope i get her again.
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cincinnati808
Patty was an excellent instructor! Very thorough and good knowledge of the material :)
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Aleyna D.
This instructor is very knowledgeable and made the course fun to learn. He answered all of our questions in ways that was very easy to understand. I feel like I've learned and retained alot of the information based on his teaching style. Thank you so much😊
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KC B
The experience was amazing and I really learned a lot from it.
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Prakash Nagar sir is amazing! Cleared all the concepts and reduces anxiety and helps build a confidence of saving lives in you!
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Sushil Katti
Very good demonstration of cpr technique. Instructor very good
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Kenna Fay
Supportive,knowledgeable and very kind instructor.
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Kerstine Banares
The CPR/First aid training was very informative and the day went by smoothly. Instructor Prakash explained everything well and tested our knowledge along the way to make sure we felt comfortable. Thanks to SOS first aid and safety training for the great experience.
Par B
Par B
My Facilitator for the course was Mr. Prakash Nagar, and he made the whole session so interesting that the whole 8hrs passed in a blink of an eye!!It was a wonderful interaction and I’m really glad that I got to learn so much today from him. Thank you!
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Parshwati Bhaumik
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Filip Pejic
Prakash is a very enthusiastic but patient teacher. Excellent hands on assistance with practical portions of class when needed. I now feel more confident in providing CPR as well as applying tourniquets and slings!
Elizabeth M
Elizabeth M
Made the practical learning easy to understand and follow
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Alayah E
It’s a great experience to study with today’s instructor. He’s knowledgeable and encouraging. He helped us understanding and remembering the knowledge better.
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10/10 experience teacher was amazing
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I want to say a big thank you to Ms VIOLA, she was so professional and she made the course understandable and fun.
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nandita sarin
Very interesting and engaging training. Thank you!
Amy Chen
Amy Chen
Great teacher who explained the whys behind all the procedures and encouraged class participation. Wanted the class to be longer as they seemed to have a lot of knowledge to share.
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Shani K.
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Belinda Shemilt
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Marina Douglas
Prakesh was a really great instructor, he’s very entertaining and easy to learn from.
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Nikababy TV
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Vickie Ng
Very helpful and knowledgeable teacherGot excellent trainingThank you
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Rania Beshay
I did my training at the Kingsbridge Garden location and Prakash was the First Aid and CPR instructor for our group.He was so fantastic , friendly and provides knowledge in a fun way. The day breezed by and I learned so much. I highly recommend this location for any first aid/cpr classes or recertification.
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CKas 7
I loved my experience with the Red Cross for my First Aid CPR certification! Prakash Nagar was amazing and so knowledgeable. He made things make sense. Thank you!
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Melanie Gagnon
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Valeriia Voronina
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Sarah Emnace
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Khushi Walia
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kiran saini
Rupinder Kaur
Rupinder Kaur
Great instructor. Good pacing for the course, it didn’t feel like it was dragging. The instructor keep everyone interested.
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Raquel Heayn
Kelly Reid
Kelly Reid
Denis was great… great energy
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Emma Frattaroli
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Mina Hanna
Instructor made it comprehensive and easy to understand.
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Andrew McLean
Very informative, and enjoyed the direction from the instructor helped where technique needed to be improved
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jonathan posella
Instructor provided useful real life context to information and skills. Very engaging and easy to listen to.
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Dalton Pears
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Ryan Erskine
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Alina Zahid
It was a great course with a ver pleasant and knowledgeable teacher. If I could have one complaint, it would be the need for a scheduled break in the morning session.
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Nicole Stockill
Great and convenient place to take the course. Instructor was amazing and great mix of learning with fun and laughter . Ready to give first aid and CPR .Highly recommend 😊
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Pooja Ghori
Prakash Nagar is the best first aid instructor I have had the pleasure of learning from. His knowledge and intelligence is obvious, his passion to teach is inspiring. I'll be coming back every year for my recertification, and I'm sure I'll learn something new every time
Timothy Votruba
Timothy Votruba
Completed my CPR/BLS blended course with Prakash. He is an amazing instructor. Enjoyed every aspect of the class!
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Hafsa Haneef
The course (BLS / SFA Blended) was well taught and the instructor was charismatic and knowledgeable. Still learned a few things although this is my second recertification of standard first aid!
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Vera Akatugba Ikanone
The instructor is patient and knowledgeable.
Pearl Lin
Pearl Lin
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Rachelle Ho
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Lena Skibicki
Ray Chang
Ray Chang
it’s good the course
Eunice Kwon
Eunice Kwon
Great experience and presentation skills that allow for in-depth understanding.
Saifallah Ayyad
Saifallah Ayyad
Before coming to my training, I was very anxious but Michelle & Jessica made the training very personal & interesting! They talk about real life situations with their real life experiences! They also care for your experience during your training and make sure that you are comfortable! Definitely will come back here again and recommend them to my friends who needs First Aid Trainings.
Macy S
Macy S
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digna George Antoine
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Chehal Bangotra
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Von Immanuel Yagong
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Daniel Tyrrell
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Janai Menzies
Had a great time learning my standard first Aid with CFR-C and AED. The instructor,A.T Summer was very great with her teachings and practicals.
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olumide bezi
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Loubna
Very knowledgeable and informative instructor!
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Nor Farion
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Rhiannon Dawe
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Vishwa Bhatt
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Arizo Hasanzadah
Amandeep Kaur
Amandeep Kaur
Really nice. Provided a temporary certificate needed for my clinical as the real certificate would not arrive in 5-7 business days. :)
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Chelsea Cano
Anthony Beilin
Anthony Beilin
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Olivia Conway
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Irma VB
Dennis was a great instructor with great humor to help pass the long time😂Definitely recommend this course for anyone who’s been wanting to get their First Aid Certification.
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Kime Hurrichuran
Anish Shirodker
Anish Shirodker
BS bagotrash
BS bagotrash

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