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A valved Anti-pollution mask – A False Sense of Security from Covid- 19

A valved Anti-pollution mask – A False Sense of Security from Covid- 19

The unprecedented pandemic of COVID-19 has impacted many lives and affects the whole healthcare systems globally. Masks have been acting as a wonder drug and as a means of effective source control against the spread of coronavirus. The chain of survival slogan reads as “your mask protects me and my mask protects you’’.

A mask with a valve diminishes the value of the public good. A mask with a valve filter, is an antipollution mask and not meant for prevention from the viral infection. The health experts warn the use of a valve mask, as it filters only inhaled air and exhaled air is contaminated and propel the germs further. There are three salient features of a good mask which one needs to abide by:

  • Certified viral filtration efficiency (VFE) – should be 95%,
  • The guarantee of comfort is important and is ensured by the breathability of the material used (and not the valve!)
  • Mask should form a seal with your face without the escape of air.

Valved masks are a sense of false security. One needs to be vigilant of the fact, recent studies have shown that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus is asymptomatic and that even those who eventually develop symptoms can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. According to the advisory published by the CDC. This contemplates to accept the spread of the virus is also when people are interacting in close proximity- speaking, coughing, or sneezing, even when the symptoms are absent. Masks with a one-way valve don’t filter exhaled air, so if an asymptomatic COVID carrier wears a valve mask, the air they breathe out will carry viruses.

Valve masks are designed for people working in industrial settings where protection is needed against dust or asbestos, not viruses. Many miscellaneous brands in the market are promising good masks with valves, one needs to be prudent in their choices of the mask. Nevertheless, even wearing cloth face coverings in public settings will suffice and is better than wearing a valved mask. The doctrine applies to- Risk Reduction rather than Absolute Prevention.  When we quote this more simply, we drive a car on road for commuting from one place to another and there is always a chance of meeting with accidents on road. The idea is to follow traffic rules, wearing set belts while driving for safety and reducing risk. However, it does not mean that we can completely avoid road accidents, there is always a risk but it does not mean that we stop driving or commuting by roads. The concept is to reduce the risk of covid-19 by wearing a mask and not absolute prevention.

It was the US National Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) who uses the term N95. So, ideally strictly only a NIOSH-certified mask can claim to be an N95, although the term has become a mask icon to every individual’s eye. One also needs to understand the need of an N-95 mask for healthcare workers across the world. The health ministry has encouraged the public to use home-made face masks. Any cotton clothes can a used as a cover for face and mouth to prevent the spread of virus. Fabric masks should contain a minimum of three layers up to five layers of cotton preferably for better filtration. The only escape to ward of the coronavirus is wearing the right mask, maintaining hand hygiene and social distancing.

Please wear the mask properly and consider it as a temporary vaccination till we get the real long term vaccination!!

Posted 24 Aug, 2020