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Our SmartStyle masks are re-usable please consider the environment before using a disposable mask. "According to an analysis by scientists at University College London, if every person in the UK used one single-use mask each day for a year, an extra 66,000 tonnes of contaminated plastic waste would be created.”
The Science Behind Masks
Viruses cause illness by being ingested, e.g. breathed in through the mouth or nose. They are not absorbed through the skin, so washing our hands is very beneficial to prevent us transferring viruses from our hands to our face. If we are wearing a mask, not only does it restrict transmittance of viruses but it stops us from touching our face, especially the orifices which capture the virus. How many victims of the virus habitually bit their nails? Masks also interfere with that habit.
We know that washing our hands for at least 20 seconds will remove viruses, but to be truly effective this should be done under hot water. New evidence states that Covid19 can't survive temperatures of 60 degrees or above. We recommend washing masks at 60 degrees. As our product is made of polyester (both layers) this washes well at high temperatures unlike cotton. Therefore, washable and re-usable cotton face masks have a limited life and surface prints won't last long being continually washed in hot water either. Surgical masks are made of polypropylene which isn't a washable fabric, as it disintegrates in hot water.
A Covid19 cell is extremely small at 0.1 micron. Typical bacteria is 1 micron. Therefore, it is 10 times harder to stop being inhaled than bacteria. So are masks any benefit against such a tiny virus? Yes, all forms of mask offer some protection even against particles of less than 0.1 micron but their effectiveness varies.
Can anything acting as a mask do the trick?
No. A standard disposable surgical mask (FFP) has a 90% effectiveness against small particles, even as low as 0.1 micron, but that is only one way, i.e. in the direction coming externally to the mask. If the wearer of this mask coughs, then the resistance is as low as 40%. A single layer knitted scarf or piece of cotton has, at best, 50% effectiveness each way. These still give 40/50% better protection than no mask at all but a 0.1micron sized coronavirus particle still has 50/60% chance of getting through. We do not recommend the use of basic disposable masks, single layer cotton masks or scarves to protect against viruses. Cotton is super absorbant, hence used for towels, which means it will absorb virus droplets, so any cotton mask must be washed frequently and ensure you wash/sanitise your hands immediately after removing it. Polyester has a much tighter weave than most cottons, making it more protective but not all polyesters are comfortable being worn so close to the face, where the skin is much more sensitive than other areas on the body. Our polyester is super soft. Polyesters are also not very absorbant, hence poor for towelling. N95 masks (P2 in Europe) are technically better than surgical masks, in their efficiency against bacteria, but they are only 95% efficient against particles as small as 0.3 microns and the N99 masks (P3 in Europe) are 99% efficient, but Covid particles are 0.1micron.
What about increasing the layers?
A double layered disposable surgical mask (FFP2), made of polypropylene, will increase the masks effectiveness to 97% against particles of less than 0.1 micron and FFP3 to 99% effectiveness. Man-made fibres (like polyester) can achieve close to the same effectiveness when doubled up. 100% cotton will only increase from 50% to 70% when doubled, due to it's wider weave/knit and absorbancy. Although there is no categorical evidence, the statistics tend to suggest disposable surgical masks FFP2 and FFP3 are probably more efficient against Covid than N95 or N99 masks, but all reduce the chance of contagion down to a very small probability.
What about breathability?
There are many materials that can 100% guard against viruses of any size, but if you can't breathe through them then they are of no benefit as a face mask. This is why we use breathable and moisture management polyesters for our masks, which are also poor in absorbancy. The disposable surgical masks don't have any breathing aids whereas the N95/N99 masks do, called exhale valves, but this may be the reason why they are less efficient against very small particles. If you cough or sneeze droplets could escape/enter through the valve. However, if you have respiratory issues or you need to wear a mask for sport, then the N95/N99 with it's exhale valve is recommended, but for general use and to protect against Covid19 they are not the best defence.
What about filters?
Using a suitable filter will definitely increase the effectiveness of a mask against sub 0.1 micron viruses. As it requires to be inserted into a pocket within the mask there has to be at least two layers of fabric, so this will increase the effectiveness of surgical masks to nearly 100%. However, a filter needs to be made of the correct material and, because there are at least two other layers of fabric, needs also to be light. The filter needs to be made of non-woven non-sterile fabric and must not restrict breathing, especially as it is acting as a third layer. The filter is the real barrier because it is made of a non woven material that has been compressed thus creating a wall.
There are various filters being sold and some are more effective than others. The best type is the 5-layer filter (PM2.5) which protects against dust, pollution, bacteria, exhaust fumes and microscopic insects as well as viruses. However, these are rapidly becoming in short supply and demand is increasing their price. Our filters will protect against dust and viruses and have a charcoal layer that protects against anti-pollution and exhaust fumes. We hope to have supply of the 5-layer filter by mid May 2020 but in the meantime we are offering our SmartStyle filter as a cheaper option. Each face mask comes with two free SmartStyle filters.
Does the Smartstyle mask tick all the boxes?
We'd like to think so, but we haven't the clinical proof yet. Covid19 is all too new for anyone to have conducted rigorous testing on any kind of mask to be confident in saying that it prevents contracting the virus. Anyone who claims their product does needs to be treated with a healthy degree of scepticism and we'd advise avoiding buying that product. What we can say is that our mask is better than most forms of mask, especially when worn with a suitable filter. It considerably outperforms cotton masks or scarves in every aspect, including comfort, practicability and effectiveness. Also, because it is washable and is well made, it proves greater value than most surgical masks which are disposable after one use, many of which are poorly made with ties coming off in an instant and demand has seen their price increase to over £1 each.
Will wearing a face mask help get life back to normal?
Yes if you wear a fit for purpose mask, other basic masks or scarves still present a risk!!
Wearing a mask is already a significant part of many countries exit strategy from lockdown and return to normal life, but ordinary scarves, basic disposable masks and single layer cotton masks are not fit for purpose. Covid19 is transmitted through droplets, cotton is super absorbant, hence used for towels, so cotton masks will absorb Covid19. Therefore, a cotton mask must at least be double layered and ideally with a filter. Disposable FFP2/3 surgical masks or N95/N99 masks are not as effective as a filtered mask, but still give a high degree of protection. If everyone wore a fit for purpose mask with a filter the need for social distancing is significantly reduced because if you have Covid and cough it goes into your mask. If someone you meet has Covid and coughs it goes into theirs, so the virus has to break through six layers to contaminate. Not even Covid19 can do that! If wearing effective masks became compulsory then we wouldn't need to keep 2mts distance, no longer have to queue to go into supermarkets, many of us could resume work and life can quickly start to get back to normal, BUT it still must be accompanied with frequent washing of hands and wiping down surfaces.Always wash your hands before putting on or removing your mask.
There are plenty of experts for and against wearing of masks and there is a lot of mis-information being spoken as well. So who's right? All we would say is that the countries which are reporting the lowest cases and death rates are, perhaps coincidentally those countries that have been wearing face masks as a regular item of clothing for some years now, but mainly for reasons of pollution. These countries include Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and China, but they also have very high population density levels, which you would think would increase the rates to levels being suffered in other densely populated areas, like New York. However, New York has no history of residents wearing masks. So until an expert can prove that face masks have had no positive effect in protecting the people in these countries and wouldn't have had any impact on the death rates in New York, we suggest wearing a mask just makes common sense. Many countries are now using face masks as a critical element of their strategy to get life back to normal, and they are not going to include face masks unless they felt there is strong evidence that masks are beneficial. To not wear a face mask simply increases the risk of getting the virus, but wear a suitable fit for purpose face mask, like the SmartStyle with a filter and your risk is significantly reduced to almost zero. Stay well.