The Coronavirus outbreak has led to a lot of public confusion over the best type of facemask to wear that offers the best protection from the disease. The truth is all types of face covering will offer some level of barrier protection. However, not all face masks are equal, and that protection level is where reassurance and safety add to confidence in knowing the mask you wear is providing the protection you rely on and deserve. Confusion over choice of which type of face mask is the best to pop on before heading to the shops, public transport or even a pub is understandable. Facemasks have only been a part of our everyday life for a short time and a short trip anywhere will show you people wearing a multitude of masks in many different ways. Often in ways that would not protect, even if they were the correct facemask. So, confusion reigns.
Helping wade through the confusion and making the right decision though is important and could ultimately be the thing that saves your life. The UK Government has helped muddy the waters with many MP’s being seen in public wearing a variety of styles of facemasks, many of which offer little, or even worse, no protection. Like many of the choices we face in life, a little research before purchasing can arm you with the best information and make choosing which facemask to PopOn easy and informed. However, buying the wrong can of beans, or peas rarely has implications which truly can affect your health and life. In this article, we discuss the best masks to protect from Covid 19 in the UK.
Disposable masks offer better protection
What’s wrong with using a reusable mask?
The successful spread of Coronavirus has been down to the structure of the microbes that have the ability to stick to surfaces and live for longer than standard bacteria. Contact with these invisible germs leaves us open and susceptible to the virus as it gets transferred from surfaces to hands and from hands to the most vulnerable parts of our immune system through eyes, nasal passages and mouths. Contact transfer is the fastest route for the virus, making it extremely resilient and fast to spread, making people exposed to a virus that is an extremely commutable and virulent disease that attacks our immune and respiratory system.
So, the solution is simple but still challenging in every-day life. The golden rules for washing hands and sanitising regularly remain the best combatant against the virus. But as we know, this is not always easy to maintain in the real world. So, the back up plan and the best method to stop the virus in its tracks and travelling from people who have contracted the virus, is adding a barrier. A barrier which covers the most vulnerable and weak areas, that we know the virus loves, the mouth and nose. And here is where you need to have the best protection, not just any protection. A reusable mask may seem a good option. Let’s face it, you only need one to put it on and then forget about it, which brings me back to the tenacity of the virus. Coronavirus just loves to hang around, it sticks to things, things that haven’t been washed…like reusable masks. Disposable masks offer better protection. You use them for the occasion they are needed and then dispose of them safely.
The virus can live on reusable masks for up to two days
Reusable masks have that lovely convenience, the ability to keep on using it. Many people probably wash them or promise to wash them, or say that they’ll wash them, and Coronavirus loves that; the human ability to put off today what they can do tomorrow. Another key component of the virus is its ability to live on surfaces. Studies range from two days to a recent Australian laboratory study by Australia’s National Science Agency which showed the virus living up to 28 days. Now, let’s go back to those reusable facemasks that we promised to wash. If your reusable facemask has indeed done its job and protected you from this virulent virus, there is no guarantee that the virus is inert on the mask even after washing. Trevor Drew, director of the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness has been quoted as saying if a person was “careless with these materials and touched them and then licked your hands or touched your eyes or your nose, you might well get infected upwards of two weeks after they had been contaminated”. Transfer contamination could also occur from a mask stored in the right conditions which would allow the bug to live on beyond normal conditions. Worn masks bundled together can also bring the added risk of cross-contamination. So, you could inadvertently infect the very people you are trying to protect by using a reusable mask. The virus loves humidity and can survive at temperatures over 40 centigrade for several hours. With so much still unknown about the virus and new studies shedding light on it daily, choosing a mask which could be a harbinger of the disease seems counter-productive.
Why should I only use Type IIR masks?
What is the difference between a IIR mask and a regular mask?
Type llR is a word you may have seen on the boxes of disposable facemasks and it probably adds to the confusion, but if we take a little time to explore the definition, we can begin to make decisions over why this type of facemask is the one to pop on when choosing something for ultimate protection against coronavirus. So, what is the difference between a type llR mask and a regular mask. What does Type llR mean and how can this type of mask protect you. As we have already discussed, there are many types of facemasks, from simple barriers such as scarves and plastic face shields to reusable facemasks, and disposable facemasks. Type llR facemasks are the latter, a medical grade, disposable facemask. The ‘R’ following Type ll means it is resistant to splashes from bodily fluids, such as coughs and sneezes.
A Type llR facemask offers dual protection to those who wear them and those around them. This protection comes from the three layers of material used to make the mask. The outer layer is a non-woven, non-absorbent material which acts as a barrier, a middle layer that acts as a filter and an inner soft fibre layer that absorbs moisture. Combined, the three layers make a durable and protective face shield that when worn correctly positions it as the number one choice for medical staff, in operating theatres and the emergency services. Standard facemasks and reusable facemasks do not have the splash protection and are made of absorbent materials making them prone to viral invasion, leaving the very mouth and noses they are supposed to be protecting vulnerable and open to infection.
What are the European Standards for face masks?
Recently the newspapers and other media were full of stories of shipments of facemasks and other medical grade PPE being low grade and unacceptable for use by the NHS and other government bodies who ordered them via a Government contract with overseas suppliers. On inspection, the PPE supplied did not meet European Standards or British standards. European Standards for face masks are outlined on the EU Europeans Safety Federation website and described below:
Medical grade face masks are designed to protect the patient against possible contamination exhaled by the medical staff during treatment (including surgical procedures), so you could say from inside to outside.
Medical masks are within the scope of the Medical Device legislation (currently Directive 93/42/EEC – in the future Regulation (EU) 2017/745). As medical masks are, from the point of view of the medical device legislation, considered as low risk, they are in class I (class IIa if the masks are sterile, which is typically not the case). Class I means that the conformity assessment procedure does not require the involvement of a Notified Body.
- For the medical masks, the European harmonised standard EN 14683:2019 is typically used by manufacturers as means to prove compliance with the MD legislation. In this standard 3 types of masks are foreseen: I, II and IIR. IIR offers the highest level of filtration as well as some protection against splashes of liquid. Type II and IIR have the same level of bacterial/microbial filtration efficiency.
- Medical masks are typically non reusable (other term: disposable), meaning they are to be used only once. The materials used to produce the masks are several layers of nonwoven fabric.
Key words of note from the EU here point toward the level of bacterial and microbial filtration efficiency Type llR masks offer, which reusable facemasks simply do not.
We offer Medical grade masks
At PopOn, we offer medical grade face masks because they provide the best protection. PopOn masks are manufactured here in the UK to Europe and British standards. All of our masks are made in a sterile environment to the very highest standards. Prior to the current pandemic there was very little PPE being manufactured in Britain and it was as a response to the Government pleading with manufacturers and entrepreneurs to fill the gap, that PopOn Masks Ltd was formed by serial entrepreneur, Jamie Majid. Jamie and Vici Majid quickly invested in the best machinery to manufacture the masks most needed by the Government and emergency services. These are medical grade, Type llR 3 ply disposable facemasks. PopOn Ltd was formed to ensure that the clarion call by the Government was answered and these much-needed medical grade masks were available and produced in the UK; thus, hopefully dispensing with the reliance on overseas imports of varying quality while cutting down on delivery times and ensuring that the masks reach the end user in optimal condition.
Within three months, PopOn Masks Ltd went from an idea on the page to being a fully functioning factory, able to manufacture millions of Type llR, 3 ply disposable facemasks of the highest grade a month, here in the UK. PopOn decided if they were going to offer medical grade masks they had to be of the highest quality and manufacturing them here in the UK was vital. Not only did this create jobs here in Britain, but it also acted as a direct response to the UK Government’s request.
The protection afford by Type llR medical grade masks makes them the facemask of choice by our medical services and emergency services working at close quarters with people infected with Coronavirus, and while the Government was keen to let the public know that supply issues are now under control, it has issued a warning to people not to buy Type llR medical grade facemasks. If its supply was so sound, surely this warning would not be necessary, and the general public could buy a face mask that offers the same level of shielding afforded to our key workers. Until the UK Government places a contract with PopOn Ltd buying its stock, we are happy to supply to consumers and business, allowing them the level of safety needed to carry out ‘normal’ living during the pandemic.
We believe everyone should have access to our facemasks and have the choice of buying them to remain safer, than using reusable masks or plastic shields which offer little to no protection beyond direct contamination. Another recent report highlighted the viruses ability to stay airborne with the right conditions, a simple face shield such as a plastic barrier would not afford protection in this scenario where the virus could potentially blow or float under the edge of the mask. As each type of mask or face shield is examined it becomes clear that the safest options are reliant on good practices such as washing hands, sanitising surfaces, keeping good social distancing measures, and wearing the best facemask. Evidence shows this to be Type llR disposable face masks.
Our masks are the same grade masks used by surgeons
We trust surgeons, literally, with our lives. They trust Type llR face masks every day in operating theatres and I dare say in public life. Our masks are exactly the same grade masks as those used by surgeons. So, it makes sense to pop on a face mask that a surgeon would use if you want that same level of surety. Type llR face masks are a common feature in every surgical operating theatre in the country and most of the world. Surgeons know and rely on the quality of the mask, where they are coming into close contact on a daily-basis with not just people who have infectious diseases, but also blood and other bodily fluids. Good practice, reliable PPE and the best face masks keep them safe to remain doing this potentially hazardous work in comfort every day. If they can do this work and stay safe day in and day out, it is clear that Type llR face masks have a strong mandate to provide that level of protection to everyone who chooses them in the fight against Covid-19.
Trust is a word that often gets diluted in day to day use, but it is an important word when looking for a facemask that keeps you safe. Used properly, there is no safer face mask on the market today. It is the choice of people we trust to save our lives and should be the recommendation of Government’s to combat this infectious disease. A disease which many people think discriminates against the elderly and those with pre-existing underlying health conditions, but many recent news stories have shown the disease to be far less selective in its choice of victims, claiming the lives of healthy fitness fanatics as easily as it does people in care homes facing their twilight years.
The World Health Organisation recommends using Type IIR masks
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends using Type llR masks in its published literature and guidelines. Extracts from the WHO guidelines clearly state:
The use of masks made of other materials (e.g., cotton fabric), also known as nonmedical masks, in the community setting has not been well evaluated.
WHO is collaborating with research and development partners to better understand the effectiveness and efficiency of nonmedical masks. WHO is also strongly encouraging countries that issue recommendations for the use of masks in healthy people in the community to conduct research on this critical topic. WHO will update its guidance when new evidence becomes available.
Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19: interim guidance
In the interim, decision makers may be moving ahead with advising the use of nonmedical masks. Where this is the case, the following features related to nonmedical masks should be taken into consideration:
- Numbers of layers of fabric/tissue
- Breathability of material used
- Water repellence/hydrophobic qualities
- Shape of mask
- Fit of mask
One study that evaluated the use of non-medical cloth masks in a health care facility found that health care workers using cotton cloth masks were at increased risk of infection compared with those who wore medical masks. Therefore, cotton cloth masks are not considered appropriate for health care workers. The WHO go on to state that health care workers should wear a medical mask when entering a room where patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are admitted.
Type llR facemasks are the most recognised and tested medical facemask for wearing in situations where confronted with the presence of people suspected of or infected with Covid-19. If the WHO recommends a Type llR face mask, then it makes sense this is the face mask that offers the best protection for everyone. We know the efficacy of this face mask in medical situations when exposed to the virus. The WHO recommends a medical grade face mask that has 98% bacterial filtration efficiency, especially in settings where physical distancing cannot be achieved and increased risk of infection and/or negative outcomes with vulnerable populations. Such as people aged 60 years or over. People with underlying comorbidities, comorbidities is the presence of one or more additional conditions often co-occurring with a primary condition, such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes mellitus, chronic lung disease, cancer, cerebrovascular disease, immunosuppression. Any setting in the community with persons with any symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, the mask of choice should be a medical grade mask.
How we stack up against other masks to protect from Covid
So how do PopOn masks stack up against the highest-grade medical face masks?
PopOn facemasks are “Type IIR” 3 ply disposable face masks which means they are suitable for both the medical industry and the public. PopOn disposable facemasks are manufactured to British Standards (EN14683:2019) as well as European standards and are the most appropriate disposable mask to wear according to the World Health Organisation.
Each mask has 3 layers; an inner layer that absorbs, a middle layer that acts as a filter and an outer layer which is a non-absorbent material. PopOn’ facemasks specifications are as follows:
- BFE (bacterial filtration efficiency) of above 98%
- Differential pressure (Pa/cm2) of below 60
- Splash resistance pressure (kPa) of above 16,0
- Microbial cleanliness cfu/g below 30
- 3mm elastic ear loops
- Nose bend for added protection and comfort
- Size 17.3cmx 9.5cm
When you pop on a PopOn disposable facemask you are not only helping protect yourself and others from the virus, you are also support British industry and jobs created in a time of crisis. We urge you to look at the country of manufacture of your facemask and think about where the virus started and the damage it has done to our economy. Then make a decision based on evidence, about which facemask to choose and which economy you want to support. Buying cheaper can often be a bad decision. Buy cheap buy twice is the adage, and when it comes to your health a few pence on a face mask is not the time to be looking at the pennies. We have seen the stories about cheap overseas PPE imported by the government, not fit for purpose and no real confidence in the quality or even conditions of manufacture.
At PopOn Masks, we are urging the government to buy British and back British manufacturing and innovation. We want all of our customers to have the same level of faith, trust and reassurance in our masks that we have. I hope this article has informed you and helped you understand the differences between reusable masks and their inherent dangers, as well and why Type llR disposable medical grade facemasks should always be your first option when choosing a safe and reliable face mask.