Fighting Covid-19 with medical grade masks

The first person to contract coronavirus lived in Wuhan, China and was officially reported by the Chinese authorities on December 31st 2019. By October 31st 2020, just 10 months later, almost 48 million cases worldwide have been reported, with 31.4 million having recovered, and 1.21 million deaths reported across the globe. The virus spread at an alarming rate passing with ease at first to the vulnerable and those with underlying health conditions. By early November, the daily rate of infection was rising once again to over 20,000 per day in the UK alone. Other countries were facing similar and worse case scenarios. The disease was thought to have started via contact with a bat, though Chinese authorities stated that the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market was linked to early cases of coronavirus and was quickly closed by the authorities. However, Wuhan is also home to the Wuhan Institute of Virology – the facility which houses zoonotic bat diseases, such as coronaviruses.

Confusion over the origins of the disease will remain opaque for some time but the reality is that the disease covered the world in less than six months from the original cases in China. Nearly half a million new cases are being reported worldwide every 14 days with a death rate of nearly 6000 during the same 14-day period. The disease too 38 days to double from an initial 5 million cases worldwide to 10 million cases, but only 11 days to rise from 40 million to 45 million cases. As of the 31st October 2020 the UK is the ninth most infected country in the world with 1,011,660 cases, and this is despite over three months of a lockdown and safety measures and social distancing remaining in place throughout the country. Clearly the virus is still successful migrating from person to person and via contact surfaces to people, despite increased sanitising and hand washing. So, how can we ensure we are doing the most we can to stay safe. The best advice for fighting Covid-19 is with medical grade masks. But there is still confusion over the safest mask. We advise you follow the recommendations of the World Health Organisation who state that 3 ply Type llR medical grade face masks are the optimum mask to protect against coronavirus.

Type IIR masks are the same masks worn by our NHS doctors

So, what are 3 ply disposable Type llR masks as recommended by the World Health Organisation. When we started at PopOn Masks, we wanted to know that we made the very safest possible masks to combat against the virus. Our research showed that Type llR masks are the same masks as worn by our NHS doctors. So, it made sense to use to make masks that were not only recommended by the World Health Organisation but also endorsed by NHS doctors, surgeons and nurses. If these facemasks kept our front-line key workers safe under more extreme environments than most of us will have to face, then we decided these were the facemasks our customers should have access to keep them safe.

The same doctors treating covid patients right now are using these same masks

3 ply Type llR disposable masks are not only used in surgery, but right now doctors are using these same masks on a daily basis in hospitals up and down the country to treat Covid patients. The protection offered gives doctors the reassurance they need that the virus will not be transmitted to them through the mask. For years, doctors and surgeons have been relying on Type llR and know that in the daily fight against coronavirus a mask which is splash proof and filters in bound microbes with 98% efficiency is their number one mask of choice.

The most effective masks to protect from Covid

When you pop on a disposable face mask, especially a 3 ply Type llR medical grade facemask you are using the most effective mask to protect from Covid. Scientifically proven to be more effective than other masks, especially reusable masks. The temptation to buy just one mask and keep using it though may seem to be an easy choice, but reusable masks come with many flaws. Often there is no filtration system, or the filter used is ineffective. The outer cloth absorbs moisture and with a poor or no filtration germs easily break what little barrier or shield reusable masks offer.

Not every mask is made equally

If you strip down the components of a reusable face mask and compare them to a disposable medical grade 3 ply Type llR facemask it becomes clear very quickly that the disposable Type llR face mask offers superior safety for both the wearer and those around the wearer. Imagine a reusable mask that has little or no filtration and no outbound protection. That mask will initially offer some protection but the more it gets worn the more exposed it is to the element and to your own secretions of sweat and body fluids as well as outside elements such as rain, and other people’s excretions through coughing and sneezing etc.

Reusable facemasks often have a porous exterior, while it acts as a temporary barrier, the nature of the material means it will absorb moisture, and that moisture will work its way towards the wearer’s respiratory system. A disposable Type llR facemask has an out barrier that is non-woven and repels water. This acts as an instant barrier against all types of fluids, bacteria, viruses and germs. A disposable Type llR face mask is lighter, more pliable, and comfortable to wear. The elastic ear loops form part of the secure fit while retaining comfort for the wearer. The three layers of the facemask act as barrier, filtration and absorption to make the mask the optimum choice for medical staff and doctors in the fight against coronavirus. It is the three layers of a disposable 3 ply medical grade Type llR mask which make it stand out from all other facemasks. The face mask has purposely been designed to protect and not just act as a temporary barrier. The science behind the face mask is sound. Not every mask is made equally.

Every mask has different levels of filtration

Many face shields have absolutely no filtration. They offer protection on against direct contact. All there is between you and any virus is a think layer of plastic which is open from the bottom of the chin. While these types of face shield have been favoured by many people, and a lot of elderly people who are generally the most vulnerable, these types of shield in truth offer very little protection against a virus which there is still debate over how it is being transmitted. Masks with filtrations systems will provide protection but not all masks are equal. Scarves, bandanas, and non-filtered face masks also fall under the category of useful but easily penetrable by microbes and viruses. A recent scientific study carried out on behalf of the consumer champion Which Magazine on the efficacy of filtration on reusable facemasks showed some facemasks only had a 7% efficacy in filtering particles. One of the face masks patented by Asda responded so poorly to tests that when confronted with the results the supermarket giant pulled the range from its shelves. Other companies of poorly functioning facemasks have not been as quick to respond or address the flaws in their products, instead choosing to disagree with the findings of the consumer champion.

The key findings in the tests were that masks with several layers responded the best. Every mask has different levels of filtration. One of the key drawbacks of a reusable facemask with a disposable filter is being reliant on the user changing the filter and knowing when to change the filter. One of the other key drawbacks of this type of face mask is some of these filters do not offer outward protection. So, if a person has coronavirus and is in public wearing a facemask with a one-way filtration system, there is every chance that as they breathe out droplets of air could contain the virus and be passed on this way. Remember, many people can carry the virus without showing any symptoms. When choosing a facemask, you really want one with high bacterial efficiency but what is ‘bacterial filtration efficiency’? There is a standard test used to measure the effectiveness of disposable surgical masks at blocking particles.

Coronavirus particles can be much smaller than bacterial particles (as small as 0.1 micrometre in diameter). Face coverings aren’t intended to block all particles down to these ultra-fine particles, though medical grade Type llR facemasks can filter above 98% bacterial filtration efficiency (BEF), but filtration is used to help capture larger droplets that the wearer breathes out, which can carry the virus. The reduction in particles escaping through filtration reduces the risk of community transmission in enclosed public spaces. Breathability is an important factor because it is linked with not only comfort and safety but is a key factor in how the mask responds. Facemasks with poor breathability get hot and damp quickly, making them uncomfortable to wear, which in turn can lead to itching and face touching around vulnerable areas, such as the eyes, nose and mouth. This clearly carries its own risks if hands are contaminated, thus rendering the facemask useless.

Disposable masks are more effective than reusable masks

The simple fact is that disposable face masks are more effective than reusable masks. If it were any other way, reusable facemasks would be the face mask of choice for operating theatres, doctors, surgeon and nurses. In terms of efficiency, comfort, practicality and wearability a Type llR medical grade 3 ply face mask is the number one choice. While their efficacy is not questioned, there are still best practices to ensure you remain safe while wearing one.

The best advice offered by the UK National Health Service regarding wearing a medical grade Type llR face mask is that there is no set time, nor recommended number of masks you should use each day. It all depends on what you are doing. However, if your mask gets dirty, wet or damaged, or if you touch the inside of it, then you should change to a new one. When you take your facemask off to eat or drink, you should dispose of the old mask, wash or sanitise your hands, and replace it with a new one once you have finished eating.

The best way to keep a Type llR disposable face mask effective is by ensuring good practices are carried out regularly and following Government guidelines such as ‘Hands, Face, Space’. Wash you hands frequently, wear a mask to cover your face and follow social distancing rules by giving people space. The two-metre rule is there for a reason and is to ensure that if someone does have the virus, the contagious droplets cannot travel the distance between you and the infected person. However, if any mask is going to offer protection at closer range the best choice would be a Type llR due to its non-absorbent outer layer of non-woven material which acts as a barrier.

Other factors in favour of a Type llR face mask include the price per face mask, which is incredibly cheap per facemask in comparison to the more expensive and less efficient, reusable face mask. Overall the disposable Type llR 3-ply facemask offers more protection from bacteria and viruses, is lighter and more comfortable to wear and is recommended by world health bodies and organisations as well as endorsed by the NHS and those who work for it. The effectiveness of the Type llR face mask is proven and recognised by these leading health organisations as the mask which keeps those facing the most everyday risk safe from harm on a daily even hourly basis.

There are no risks of using a contaminated mask if you throw them away after each use

The important thing when wearing a disposable face mask is to remember these are disposable items and are designed for using and disposing of safely. The disposability adds to the safety for the wearer and those around them. The proper use can actually be a life saver. If you have a mask that is contaminated, you can ensure your safety by a regular routine of disposing of them. While there is no set time limit for wearing a disposable facemask, the low cost should be a factor in making the easy decision to simply dispose of it safely and securely at the end of the day ensuring that if your mask was contaminated on the outside, the contamination was also dealt with. Many items in our life are disposable and you wouldn’t dream of reusing. You have to think of a Type llR 3-ply disposable face mask exactly the same way as you would any other disposable item. In fact, by putting a positive spin on disposing of them, by knowing you could be saving yourself from harm and possible coronavirus contamination every time you throw away a worn facemask at the end of the day.

The correct disposal must also be carried out with all the normal safety measures you would do for anything you felt could do you or others harm. Cut the ear loops so it is animal friendly, should it somehow make its way into the outside environment and put it in a bin, preferably in a disposable bin bag, then wash you hands as per Government and health body guidelines for at least 20 seconds in warm water with soap. Ensure you wash all of your hands and your wrists every time you take off a disposable or any face mask or covering. Cross contamination is one of the greatest challenges and poor housekeeping could ironically lead to people contracting the disease though reusing a mask too often of poor handling during disposal or wearing. How many people have we all seen wearing what has become known as the chin cradle or worse still, a mask under the nose but covering the mouth? One wonders how people who wear face masks like this think a virus is transmitted.

The truth is these people, the chin cradlers and nose avoiders are not only putting themselves in harms way by wearing a facemask incorrectly, but they also heighten the risks of cross contamination from wearing the mask incorrectly. The neck area is a large area close to those dangerous points of entry, the mouth and nose. Larger areas are more prone to contamination by their very mass and if a mask is pulled down on to that area it increases the chances of the virus transferring from the neck or chin to the inside of the mask and then being breathed in the next time it is pulled over the nose or mouth. Correct handling, wearing and procedures during disposal eliminate risk and keep you safe.

Despite their higher costs, reusable masks often have poorer levels of filtration

Filtration is one of the major safety factors when choosing a face mask. Some reusable facemasks are manufactured with an inbuilt and sometimes changeable filter. Though, despite the higher costs, reusable masks often have poorer levels of filtration. Earlier we spoke about the ‘Which’ report that showed some reusable face masks have only 7% efficiency. Other types of reusable face masks have a filter that only works one way, protecting the wearer but not those in his or her company. Issues also arise from how a filter degrades with wear. The filter in the face mask becomes less efficient over time as it breaks down or simply becomes logged with water, sweat, bacteria and quite possibly viruses.

Often, we add value to an item if it is more expensive, however, this is not always the case. Clearly, per unit, a Type llR 3 ply medical grade face mask is a lot cheaper than a reusable facemask. The construction and science behind a Type llR face mask is tested and proven and offers the best level of protection both in more extreme environments such as hospitals, operating theatres and surgeries as well as down the aisles of your local supermarket or on a bus or train. The temptation to think you are buying the Tesla of facemasks by paying more and buying a reusable face mask at many times the cost of a disposable facemask is a false economy though and in truth you could be investing in a Sinclair C5 or a Reva G-Wiz (look that one up!). The tick boxes you should be looking for are:

  • Is this the safest face mask for me and others around me?
  • Can I trust this facemask?
  • How good is the filtration in this face mask?
  • Is my face mask splash proof?
  • Will it repel viruses and bacteria with at least 98% efficiency?
  • Will I keep a reusable face mask scrupulously clean?
  • Will I change the filter regularly in my reusable face mask?

The variables with a reusable mask are many compared to the simplicity of a 3 ply medical grade Type llR face mask. Is your health and the health of your loved ones work the risk and the extra upkeep of a reusable facemask? Will you always maintain the highest of standards and upkeep to ensure that a reusable face mask is fit for purpose, even if that fitness for purpose still falls under the minimum standards of a Type llR face mask? Weighing up the risks, you have to make a decision every day during the current pandemic over what face mask is right for you? Sometimes it pays to take the cheaper per mask option and invest in the world trusted face mask the next time you are going to pop on a face mask that truly protects, not one that might just do the job, but one which medical bodies the world over trust. We trust our doctors and nurses and the NHS, they trust Type llR face masks. It should be your face mask of trust too.