Shop smart and remember…The filtering efficiency of each type of mask or face covering varies significantly.
All masks do NOT offer equal protection.
For instance, the ‘N95 mask’ blocks 95% of tiny particles (to 0.3 microns) when fitted properly.
Other medical masks (called ‘surgical masks’ or ‘procedural masks’) filter out between 60% and 80% depending on the type.
Cloth masks and homemade masks filter out varying degrees of particles and while some are good many offer much less filtering efficiency and protection depending on the materials used, how many layers, the fit, the construction and so on. But any face covering is much better than no mask at all.
Note that on the CDC website (SEE GRAHIC BELOW) the CDC graphic comparing the N95 mask to surgical masks indicates that the surgical mask “Does NOT provide the wearer with a reliable level of protection from inhaling smaller airborne particles and is not considered respiratory protection”
In other words, a surgical mask may help the wearer from spreading a virus but will not adequately protect the wearer from incoming germs. The takeaway is that protection for the wearer requires an N95 mask or better!
Since N95 masks are supposed to be reserved for medical professionals since there is an inadequate supply of these masks for medical people, the public is mostly left with mask choices offering widely differing filtration effectiveness, possibly averaging around 65% according to some estimates but certainly higher in some circumstances but no doubt much lower with many others.
So, for those of us who consider masks a life and death issue, mask selection is critical.
Why use a mask that provides 40% protection or 65% protection when you can use one that offers 95% protection or even higher?
Why use a mask that would fail to protect you 35% of the time.
Or 50% of the time.
You certainly would not get on a plane that crashes 35% of the time.
Or 50% of the time.
So, why risk getting a potentially fatal virus by these amounts?
Remember that masks that are not fitted properly, for instance, those masks with gaps such as is common with surgical masks or most cloth masks, will offer greatly diminished protection. Maybe as low as only 34%.
So mask selection can make a huge difference for your personal safety. There are a number of excellent choices for efficient face masks here in the U.S. that offer excellent filtration. There are also many in Europe and Asia that we have found in our shopping research.
Here on Review Werx we’ve done profiles of some of the better choices available here in the U.S. as well as one from Europe. While there are a number of good masks available in Europe we have profiled one of our favorites from that region by a company called Respilon out of the Czeck Republic.
They make a product called R-Shield which is a neck gaiter (or scarf) with a nano filter membrane with filtering efficiency to the tune of around 99%. That’s even better than an N95 and a heck of a lot more comfortable. We’ve purchased a number of R-Shields and they are our favorites. But there are some other good ones that we have profiled on this site as well.
Note: Please excuse my spelling. In a number of places on the site I misspelled gaiter as gator…