The N95 mask is indeed the most trusted mask to be worn in this pandemic. However, with the scarcity it faces, another mask is considered; the surgical mask. The surgical mask answers the need for people to wear masks in public in absence of the N95 mask. Aside from KN95 and FFP2, the surgical mask counts as one of the best alternatives. It is lightweight and very easy to carry inside a purse.
Prior to the pandemic, the surgical mask has been a popular staple among hospitals and clinics. In fact, along with the N95 mask, the demand for surgical masks surged since the pandemic had started. In absence of the N95 mask, people working in the medical field wear multiple plies of surgical masks just to keep themselves protected.
The surgical mask has two colors; blue on the outside and white on the inside. The surgical mask has elastic straps that are wrapped around the ears. The surgical mask has three-walls of protection in which the center part of the mask, which is a non-woven fabric, does the filtering magic. Although the surgical mask is not as effective as the N95 mask, it is still proven to filter large particles. It prevents the wearer from contacting fluids on the outside and traps fluid particles like saliva and phlegm on the inside. The surgical mask is waterproof and must be disposed of every after use. It does not cause any obstruction in breathing. Thus, safe to use even those with breathing difficulties can use this.
While the N95 mask is known to filter 95% of aerosol particles, some types of surgical masks are even less than that. Simply because the surgical mask is a loose-fitting mask and is prone to any form of leakage. The tight nose clip in the surgical mask is also susceptible to leakage. Also, the N95 mask has markings that represent their identity, including their protection rating or filter designation.
Should surgical masks include covid-19 protection ratings?
This leads to the question of whether the surgical mask should include protection ratings. Protection ratings are important for the consumer to be informed as to how many percent or to what extent the mask is capable of filtering particles that may contain harmful microorganisms. Like the N95 mask, a surgical mask is also able to filter particles.
Should it be put on a surgical mask? Yes. Because a surgical mask can be manufactured in a lot of countries like China, the USA, and in the European Union. Their filtration ability also matters because there are various levels in the filtration ability of a surgical mask. Along with the filtration ability, there is also a standard description for every surgical mask. Through the standard descriptions, you are able to tell where your surgical mask originated from.
In the US, there are levels of filtration ability while in Europe, they have three types of filtration ability for their surgical masks.
The US version of the surgical mask is labeled as ASTM F2100 while the Europe version of the surgical mask is EN 14683. As for the levels, here’s their description:
- For level one surgical masks, it can filter up to 95% of bacteria that are 3.0 microns in size and particles that are 0.1 microns in size.
- For levels two and three surgical masks, it can filter up to 98% of bacteria that are 3.0 microns in size and particles that are 0.1 microns in size.
For the European counterpart of the surgical mask, as far as bacteria are concerned, it functions the same as the US surgical mask. However, there is no stipulated filtration ability for particles that are 0.1 microns in size.
China has its own manufactured surgical mask. It is under the code YY0469. The Chinese counterpart of the surgical mask is able to filter 30% of particles that are 0.1 microns in size. It does not have any levels or types. Their surgical mask is able to filter up to 95% of bacteria that are 3.0 microns in size. Another Chinese manufactured mask is YY/T0969. This is not a surgical mask but a single-use face mask. This shares the same bacterial filtration ability as the YY0469 model. But this surgical mask does not have any stipulated filtration ability for particles that are 0.1 microns in size.
You may notice that there are various standards of the surgical mask but they are technically similar to one another. With this kind of knowledge in your mask, you are able to tell if you are getting the filtration ability that you desire against the deadly coronavirus.
Just like the N95 mask, the surgical mask also experiences scarcity. This is due to skyrocketing demand. Aside from it, there were reported incidents of looting and impulsive buying of the surgical mask. Moreover, there are reported incidents of counterfeiting. You can purchase your trusted surgical mask in pharmacies, medical supply chains, and convenience stores.
With the expressed scarcity, people can also wear other alternatives to the surgical mask like cloth masks. Cloth masks may not be that efficient infiltration but it can also guarantee protection.
It is important as consumers to check the label of the goods that you buy. This is one way to ensure that you are getting quality goods in exchange for the hard-earned money. By knowing the descriptions that are engraved in your purchased surgical mask, this makes you a wise consumer.