A face mask or face covering comes in various forms and their objectives may also differ. To further elaborate, there are different types of masks for different purposes, like a surgical mask is meant to be used by medical professionals but normal people also wore this during the ongoing pandemic to seek protection from the novel coronavirus. Similarly, there are different kinds of respirators for construction workers, for medical professionals, and also to keep ones-self safe from fumes and pollution.
There are also cloth masks that are not as efficient as surgical masks or respirators but people wear them to seek protection from pollution and it is also being widely used during the current pandemic to prevent coronavirus.
All of these masks are made from different fabrics using different kinds of materials and serve different purposes as well. The quality of the materials that are used in making a mask is what determines whether that mask is suitable for use or not. There are authorities such as the FDA, CDC, and NIOSH who are responsible for regulating and approving these masks. An N95 respirator is approved by NIOSH and CDC whereas a surgical mask is recommended by the FDA.
What is polypropylene?
Polypropylene is also referred to as PP and is a kind of plastic polymer that is obtained through the process of chain-growth polymerization—a polymerization technique in which unsaturated monomer molecules are added into the active site one by one on a growing polymer chain. It is also categorized as a Polyolefin and its properties are both crystalline and non-polar. It is white in appearance and is highly chemical resistant. Non-woven polypropylene is used in Both N95s and surgical masks. Non-woven polypropylene is made from spinning thermoplastic polymers into threads which are then heated to bond them together.
Non-woven polypropylene is also made from plastic but is much more durable and softer than the original polypropylene. In early November, a report emerged from Canada in which the chief public health advisor recommended the use of polypropylene in masks and specifically demanded surgical masks to consist of three layers including a final layer of polypropylene. The use of polypropylene makes face masks more effective.
How much polypropylene is used in face masks?
A surgical mask, also known as a medical mask has been specifically designed for healthcare professionals. It aims to protect the user from fluids, droplets, and infections and is recommended to be used during medical procedures--such as surgery. Surgical masks consist of three or four layers at least. A mesh of plastic fibers is used in these masks which acts as a filter and is made from melt-blown fabric, a process of melting plastic that makes the mask breathable. Polypropylene is the most common material that is used in the making of surgical masks. A fixed amount of 20 to 25 grams of polypropylene per square meter is required in density to make surgical masks.
An N95 respirator filters out 95% airborne particulates up-to-the size of 0.3 microns and is recommended by WHO and approved by NIOSH. It is the primary choice for healthcare professionals but what exactly makes this mask stand out? Well, the special ingredient will most probably be found in the materials that are used in the manufacturing of this mask. A typical N95 respirator uses polypropylene fiber, but this polypropylene fiber is different from others because it is given an electrostatic charge that makes this material more effective in filtering out impurities.
Importance of polypropylene in masks
Face masks are the most crucial piece of equipment in this present time. Their importance is that of an armor worn while fighting in a battle. N95 and surgical masks are more widely used and more efficient ones in comparison to other masks. The factor which makes these masks stand out is their meticulous manufacturing process and the materials used in them. An important material that is used in all N95s and surgical masks is polypropylene, which is a kind of plastic polymer
Both of these masks are widely used by both medical professionals and the general public as well. Polypropylene is a major part of these masks and without the usage of this particular material, both of these masks will be of no use. Although polypropylene is not the only material that is used in making these masks, however, the little amount that is required in the making of an N95 and surgical mask makes it more efficient and effective. N95s and surgical masks without polypropylene will be less effective and less reliable too.
Polypropylene is an important material and increases the efficiency of masks. The use of polypropylene is both necessary and is also recommended by experts. While polypropylene is crucial in N95s in a surgical mask it is recommended that the final layer should be of polypropylene that will make the surgical masks more effective.
Besides N95s, polypropylene is also used in other masks and respirators such as KN95, a mask regulated under the Chinese jurisdiction, and the FFP2, another respirator that is regulated in the European jurisdiction. The common use of this material is all major respirator and masks is an indication of its importance in face coverings. In addition to this, polypropylene is also used in other materials like shopping bags and pants.