Mask Comparisons

What does it mean that the mask is latex and fiberglass free? 

Unbeknown to many, masks that do not explicitly state that they are latex and fiberglass free, contain such allergens and irritants.  Such masks often cause significant discomfort short term and dangerous side effects long-term including but not limited to face rashes, dry mouth, breathing difficulty and etc.  

Fiberglass Precautions 

Fiberglass is a proven skin, nose, throat irritant and a cause of dyspnea as it attacks the respiratory system[1].  When inhaled, large fibers are trapped in the upper airways while smaller fibers may be inhaled deep into the lungs.  While some fibers are removed through coughing, sneezing and through the body’s defense mechanism, fibers may remain in the lung and/or thoracic regions[2]. In addition, eyes can become red and irritated[3].    

Latex Precautions 

Although we encounter natural latex in many everyday items, prolonged exposure to latex can lead to the development of a latex allergy[4]. 

Latex allergy reactions range from hives, rashes and itching; respiratory effects include nasal congestions, asthma like symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness, difficulty breathing and in severe instances an anaphylaxis shock[5]. 

Medical Grade vs. Non-Medical Grade Masks 

Non-medical grade masks only prevent droplets from leaving the wearer’s mouth.  Especially when used without an appropriate filter, they only reduce the volume of aerosols and microorganisms released[6].  Unless manufactured of appropriate material, non-medical grade masks may not only be ineffective but also harmful to the person wearing it.  On June 12th 2020, the World Health Organization updated its guideline to use 3-layered masks and should include a non-woven polypropylene filter layer[7] 

Surgical Mask vs. Respirator 

Respirators are designed to help reduce the wearer’s respiratory exposure to airborne contaminants such as particles, gases, or vapours. Respirators and filters must be selected based on the hazards present[8]. 

Difference between Level 1, 2 and 3 

Medical grade masks are tested vigorously and are certified using the ASTM standard, an internationally recognized organization founded in 1898 that develops and publishes technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems and services.  

Level 1: low barrier protection for general use for low-risk, nonsurgical procedures and exams that do not involve aerosols, sprays and fluids. An ear loop mask is a level 1 mask. ASTM level 1 masks are the general standard for both surgical and procedural use. 

Level 2: moderate barrier protection for low-to-moderate levels of aerosols, sprays and fluids. 

Level 3: maximum barrier protection for any situation that has the potential for exposure to heavy levels of aerosols, sprays and fluids. Level 3 is recommended as a best practice for supporting OR safety initiatives[9]. 

Characteristic 

LEVEL 1 

LEVEL 2 

LEVEL 3 

Bacterial Filtration Efficiency, % 

≥ 95 

≥ 98 

≥ 98 

Differential Pressure, mm H20/cm2 

< 5.0 

< 6.0 

< 6.0 

Sub-micron particulate filtration efficiency at 0.1 micron, % 

≥ 95 

≥ 98 

≥ 98 

Synthetic Blood Penetration, minimum pressure in mmHg 

80 

120 

160 

Flame Spread 

Class 1 

 

 

 ASTM F2100-19 requirements   

When the risk is unknown or too great to ignore, level up your mask selection and get the best protection with an ASTM Level 3 Mask. 

Level 3 Mask offers the highest level of protection for you and those around you. 

 

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npg/npgd0288.html 
[2]https://www.doh.wa.gov/communityandenvironment/airquality/indoorair/fiberglass 
[3] http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/factsheets/fiberglass.htm 
[4] https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/98-113/ 
[5] https://acaai.org/allergies/types/latex-allergy#:~:text=Latex%20allergy%20symptoms%20may%20include,exposure%20to%20latex%20containing%20products
[6] https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/prevention/ppe/surgical_mask.html 
[7] https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/risk-comms-updates/update-30-use-of-masks.pdf?sfvrsn=eeb24c14_2 
[8] https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/prevention/ppe/surgical_mask.html 
[9] https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/quality/the-4-fs-of-medical-mask-selection.html#:~:text=ASTM%20level%201%20masks%20are,of%20aerosols%2C%20sprays%20and%20fluids.

 

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