In the Index, we recently announced a study in which we examined how disciplined Europeans, including Hungarians, adhere to health rules imposed by the coronavirus outbreak. When it comes to wanting to wear a mask, we do quite well compared to the European average, but when we walk the streets or travel by public transport, there are still countless people wearing their masks badly or putting on the wrong mask.
Therefore, we will now try to summarize once again all the relevant information related to the masks and contribute to the greatest possible chance of surviving the current period without infection. In order to provide professional, comprehensive answers to the questions that arose, we asked for information and received information from the specialists of “masks” of the National Institute of Food Pharmacy and Health (OGYÉI) and the National Center for Public Health.
As shown by a million studies, the essence of the mask is to minimize the release of droplets (aerosols) exhaled by the infected into the air, their getting into the respiratory tract. If we are healthy, covering our mouth and nose will protect us from the sprays we exhale, if we are infected, we will protect others. When breathing, talking, coughing or sneezing, the drops disperse with varying intensity, but if we wear a mask, it lands on its surface, and not on the skin, face, and other mucous membranes.
The mask also protects us from soiling our face during involuntary movements, and from there to the eyes, mouth and nose. (Remember that wearing a mask is only part of the defense: you must be careful to keep your distance and wash your hands frequently!)
A protective mask, which can be a medical device, personal protective equipment or a home mask, is used correctly if it completely covers our nose, mouth and chin for which the design needs to be checked.
EXPERIENCE REGULARLY IN STORES, BUSES, PLAYGROUNDS WHICH ONLY COVER YOUR MOUTH, NOSES ARE FREE WE SHOULD NOT WEAR THE MASKS IF OUR EYES ARE INCOMPATIBLE OR MOISTURIZED.
Make sure it fits snugly on your face by reducing the suction power. We must wash our hands thoroughly with soap before and after applying them. If the mask is wet, it must be replaced as filterability will deteriorate rapidly. Regardless of whether we get a rubber mask or a mask to bind, we must put it on so that we do not have to constantly manipulate it, because this way more dirt can get onto our surface from our hands and “saturate”.
Respiratory protective equipment can be divided into 3 categories depending on the material from which they are made, what regulations apply to them and what their purpose is. Based on them, they exist
- medical equipment,
- personal protective equipment for respiratory protection,
- other mouth masks.
Performance may vary by category and within categories.
Surgical or medical mask
Surgical masks of the first category are intended for professional use, eg for hospital workers, but due to their design they do not provide complete protection against pathogens and other contaminants because the face of the mask is loosely attached to the face. The protection level may vary. Even so, there are many of them that are worn on the street which has a few problems.
Due to their permeability, these masks provide protection for 2.5-3 hours, after which they need to be replaced so that they can only be worn for a short time.
On the other hand, if passersby put it on and wear it two or three a day, supplies will run out quickly and there will be no one left to fight for our grandparents’ lives at the operating table or the intensive care bed.
The second category includes personal protective equipment for respiratory protection. They were originally developed with occupational safety in mind, ie to protect a highly effective person from entering the body of pollutants by inhalation, eg at a construction site, in a car repair shop. Their type limits the amount of protection available.
They can be divided into two groups:
- for filtering half masks
- and insulating respirators.
Filtering half masks filter out pollutants from the inhaled air and reduce pollution below acceptable levels. Half masks with a particulate filter operating on this principle are labeled FFP (Filtering Facepiece Particulare), 1-2-3 depending on their performance. they can be classy (FFP1, FFP2, FFP3), we see a lot of it on the street. The insulating half masks supply air from an external source, providing complete protection when used as intended.
But it’s important to know that valved respirators only filter nearly 100 percent of the intake air, so they protect the wearer, don’t filter the exhaled air, so if worn by a sick or suspected person, they don’t protect others from infection.
Most popular FFP masks in Hungary cannot be reused or washed. Because if they were washed at high temperatures or even simply steamed to remove potential viruses, they would be destroyed. However, there can be exceptions to these types, so it’s always a good idea to read the instructions carefully before using them. Also think about the environmental aspects: as a consumer, it is not certain that we should increase the market for plastic masks if we can choose a product made of a less polluting material with a similar filtering capacity.
For other masks, ie Masks that are not classified under the two regulatory categories above (eg Homemade, sewn masks), the effectiveness depends on the filtration properties and air permeability (ie, breathability) of the raw material. The screening effectiveness depends
- weave tightness,
- from the thread diameter,
- and in the case of nonwovens from the production process.
It is advisable to choose an inelastic (elastic) material for the masks, since the material stretches during use, which increases the pore size and thus reduces the filtration efficiency. Flexible fabrics are also sensitive to high temperatures and therefore cannot be washed effectively.
In addition to the choice of material, the number of layers is also important. Depending on the type of material, it is recommended to wear a mask consisting of at least 3 layers. Studies have shown that fabric or clothing masks (eg nylon or polyester) provide 2 to 5 times greater filtration efficiency in two layers than in one. For cotton masks, it is recommended to purchase 4 layers. Porous materials (eg Gauze) do not provide adequate filtration, even in several layers.
Multi-layer masks made of fabric are best for everyday use because they have the right filtering properties, can be washed and can be used for many months.
What about the scarf?
With the onset of winter, many not only solve the problem of neck warming with a scarf, but also perceive it as a mask. This is a mistake as neck scarves are not intended to cover the face and nose, nor do they have any filtering properties. Their filterability also depends on the material they are made of, for example, knitted scarves, wrapped in several layers, have visible pores (holes), which makes breathing difficult. Their effectiveness is further hampered by the fact that their material is quickly wetted by exhaled steam, which in turn can quickly become an ideal microenvironment for other infectious agents.
Should I throw it away, wash it, iron it?
The international symbol on the masks shows that once used it is a crossed out 2 in a circle, we need to look for that symbol.
Surgical masks (medical masks) are disposable products as they are not suitable for disinfection or cleaning eg with heat or chemicals / disinfectants due to the properties of their material. The largest part of FFP masks should also be discarded after one use, they cannot be washed, but the instructions for use are decisive here.
Fabric masks are recommended to be stored in a closed bag after use until washed. They can be machine washed to kill and inactivate microorganisms at a temperature of 90-95 degrees or 60-75 degrees, in the latter case in combination with a disinfectant cleanser, you can also wash by hand in a disinfectant solution for at least 10 minutes, ironing is possible and can be used for months until the material wears out.
What are we looking for on the label?
Documentation of various markings and masks can be helpful in purchasing legally sold medical or personal respirators. This paragraph is going to be a bit boring right now, but while everyone chews it up or bookmarks an article so they can pick it up when they make a purchase.
In the case of choosing a surgical mask (non-sterile), despite the above, we are looking for the CE mark and the manufacturer’s declaration of conformity issued in accordance with Regulation 93/42 / EEC or 4/2009 (III.17) EüM. For sterile masks, ensure that you have the CE marking and the four-digit identification number of the certification body, eg CE3271 and a certificate issued under 93/42 / EEC. For personal protective equipment and respirators, the CE marking and the four-digit identification number of the certification body and the certificate issued in accordance with Regulation (EU) 2016/425 must also be observed.
Every legally sold mask should have the product manufacturer there, if you can’t find it, please don’t buy it!
As it is in high demand around the world, masks have been counterfeited. Customs and investigators sent an alert to OGYÉI in 122 cases, and the institute launched a market surveillance procedure in 24 cases. In 18 cases, sales of a given product were suspended or a product was withdrawn from the market. In some cases, OGYÉI has not acted or acted because it has concluded that the product complies with the EU harmonization legislation. In the case of protective masks, treatments were carried out by the Ministry of Innovation and Technology.
(Cover image: ppi / index)