HOW DOES A HOMEMADE MASK WITH FILTER MATERIAL DIFFER FROM A N95 CERTIFIED RESPIRATOR?
This is a really important question, so if you don’t read any of the other FAQs, make sure that you read this one.
Firstly the N95 refers to a respirator. A respirator is a fitted mask that is cup-shaped and designed to encapsulate your face. It sits firmly onto the face, forming a tight seal between the skin and the mask. The tight fit, as well as the filtration materials used, prevents the majority of air borne and inert particles from penetrating the mask area. (The picture to the left, features a typical N95 respirator).
N95 respirators generally have filtration efficiencies for most penetrating particles of size 0.1 – 0.3 microns. These respirators are at least 95% efficient in filtering those tiny particles. BTW 1 micron is a unit of length equal to one millionth of a meter. You can’t see it with naked eye.
If you make a mask and use filter material (such as those found in vacuum cleaners or air filters), be aware that these can have differing filtering capabilities. Depending on the filter medium you can source and use, it may be possible to be relatively efficient in blocking particles up 0.1 microns in size. e.g. HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arresting) air filters are 99.97% effective in capturing particles as small as 0.3 microns.
However, this is important to note: blocking of tiny particles also depends on the face leakage, that is to say, if your mask has gaping holes in it, or it isn’t a good fit, this may reduce the face seal effectiveness and therefore the efficiency of particle blocking.
Using your mask in conjunction with preventative measures recommended by the CDC, can help reduce the spread of the virus.
What’s the difference between a mask and respirator?
A respirator has the ability to protect the wearer from exposure to airborne microbial and inert particles, e.g. viruses and bacteria, by forming a tight seal on the face. Masks such as hand-made or surgical ones can form an effective barrier from splashes, droplets and saliva.
CAN A HOMEMADE MASK HELP PREVENT THE SPREAD OF AIRBORNE MICROBIAL PARTICLES?
Let’s say hypothetically, you had a virus and sneezed, your homemade mask can help reduce the spread of tiny virus particles into the air. Masks capture the fine droplets (which has been shown as the main transmission mechanism of many different viruses), studies have indicated that protection is more effective than no barrier at all.
Sadly scientists also point to the fact that virus particles can also transmit via your eyes. Now you’ll have a reason to look cool, when you wear your sunglasses all the time. Joking aside, if you are in close contact with someone and you’re infected, a mask can help reduce the chance of spread.
Virus particles can linger, as a fine mist, sometimes referred to as an aerosol, this floats around for several hours. So if you’re infected and you cough sneeze, talk or breathe, particles of the virus can disperse into the air. If you’re wearing a mask, this may help prevent others from contracting a virus.
SHOULD I LEAVE MY HOME WITHOUT A MASK?
In our opinion, the answer is don’t leave home without a mask, and only leave home if you have to. (You may have to go out because you: provide an essential service, are a healthcare professional, are an essential service provider or you need to visit a doctor or buy food), otherwise please stay at home. The sooner we follow the rules, the sooner we’ll be able to go out again. If you do need to go out, then we highly recommend you wear a mask. Let’s save the N95 respirators for healthcare professionals. Let’s make our own masks, because there’s a shortage out there. We are exercising our freedom to choose to be good citizens and choosing to practice safe behaviors in order help prevent the spread of the virus and ultimately help save lives.
STOP READING THE NEWS EVERY 5 MINUTES. IT WILL HELP REDUCE STRESS!
Taking care of yourself, your loved ones and your friends may help you overcome stress during difficult times. Always ensure that you follow social distancing practices. Call, email and video-chat vs. visiting in-person. Share the love remotely.
IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT COVID19