Most of us Canadians since the introduction of covid-19 into Canadian lives have had a ton of questions about masks. Those of us outside of the medical field have had very little interaction with them, and information spread in the news can be both vague and confusing. Today we’re going to break down the essentials of a mask; materials, filtration, fit and likely a few more so that you’re able to get a concrete idea of what makes a mask worth your dollar.
One of the first and most notable pieces of information given to us by the government of Canada is that we should be wearing non-medical face masks in public spaces. For some the idea of “non-medical” may sound less safe but in their essence a medical mask is in the same realm of protection that a 3 ply mask is. What makes the medical mask a baseline form of protection is its 3 layers of filtration and the ability to dispose of it after a single-use. These layers of filtration are calculated in different ways using quantifiers such as Bacterial Filtration Efficiency or BFE and Particle Filtration Efficiency or PFE. Bacterial Filtration Efficiency measures how well the medical face mask filters out bacteria while Particle Filtration Efficiency measures how well a mask filters smaller airborne particles.
Not words you would be finding yourself using while sewing a makeshift mask at home, but definitely words you’ll want to know the meaning of while taking steps back into public life. The prevention of the second wave will be dependent on the use of the correct products. In terms of BFE and PFE 99% would be the highest quality of publicly available masks one can purchase. The only “higher” level would be that of the N95 reserved solely for healthcare workers. Instead the 3 ply mask provides medical level protection without the use of medical products.
Another factor one wants to consider when looking into masks is a products’ “breathability”. According to the World Health Organization, “Breathability is the ability to breathe through the material of the mask. Breathability is the difference in pressure across the mask and is reported in millibars (mbar) or Pascals (Pa) or, for an area of mask, over a square centimetre (mbar/cm2 or Pa/cm2 ). Acceptable breathability of a medical mask should be below 49 Pa/cm2.”
In simpler terms, breathability factors in the exchange of air that occurs when breathing in or out and ensures that while you’re breathing as usual the mask does not lose its alignment with your mouth and nose. This is critical because any opening that may occur on the sides of your mask would mean possible exposure.
Another factor that one should consider when thinking in terms of masks is the idea of “woven” vs. “non-woven” materials. Woven materials could be any stray materials found in the home. Non-woven meltblown masks are what we are used to seeing in the medical profession. This is because these masks prove to be more lightweight, have high BFE and PFE percentages and better air permeability. They are made with a specific purpose in mind and are tested to align with the highest standards. Both you and your family deserve to have a sense of safety and security that simply cannot be provided by any untested mask. Ensure that the mask choices you are making have your wellbeing in mind, choose a 3 ply mask, choose Medura.