While safety is your topmost priority, using a mask always depends on your preferences. Pondering the key facts of the safety issue, you must use the best quality musk in order to protect yourself from the airborne viruses.
American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) is an international standards organization that has evaluated all kinds of marks entailing disposable masks and setting the standard as per the functionalities and capabilities of the mask.
What is the actual difference?
The straightforward answer to this query is there is no difference between a surgical mask and a disposable mask in terms of purpose, safety, and protection. But ASTM has categorized masks into three levels, those are,
- Procedure Masks (Level 1)
Based on the components, performance, and overall performance, ASTM developed this different level. According to ASTM, procedure or regular masks are considered as the Level 1 mask owing to the following reasons.
Level 1 mask has a low-protection issue. As a result, these categorized masks can be used for the short procedure and don't have enough capability to resist any kind of spray like aerosols, spray, or fluids. As you already know that coronavirus is an airborne virus and can spread from droplets from the infected, Level-1 masks are incapable of protecting you from this virus. The virus can easily penetrate through the mask and infect you.
Moreover, according to the report from ASTM, Level -1 has sets of traits such as its differential pressure <4.0 mm H20/cm2 (Breathability), resistance to penetration by synthetic blood or minimum pressure gauged at 80 mm Hg, ≥95% bacterial filtration capability, flame speed set as ‘Class 1’.
- Moderate Masks
A moderate mask signifies the masks with moderate barrier protection. Obviously, its components and capabilities set this in the hierarchy of different category masks. If you want to identify under which category surgical masks fall, you will have to judge it according to its texture, resistance ability, filtration, and flammability. It can be said that surgical masks with 4-ply can be taken as moderate masks.
Let's see the characteristics of the Level-2 (moderate masks) set by the ASTM. Level-2 masks have 120 mm Hg resistance to penetration by synthetic blood and minimum pressure, <5.0 mm H20/cm2 (Breathability), flammability gauged as ‘Class -1.’
Other than these characteristics, the most highlighting feature of this mask is it has ≥98% bacteria filtration efficiency making it equivalent to the Level-3 masks or N95 Respirator (also known as NIOSH N95).
All in all, disposable masks are often referred to as surgical masks and vice-versa. To put it in plain words, after using a surgical mask, you must dispose of it immediately because researchers have found that the virus can stay alive on the surgical mask and disposable masks for least a week.
If you want to categorize surgical and disposable masks, follow the ASTM international mask rating and match those with characteristics of different levels. Thus you will find which category your mask falls under.