The article is attributed to MC Leong and Vince Koay, Co-Founders of AiruFlo
Stepping into the third year of grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, we have witnessed severely contagious variants being detected all over the world back-to-back. With the latest addition of the Omicron variant to the pandemic, face masks have become a vital accessory for everyone to reduce the spread of the deadly disease.
Nonetheless, this has introduced another environmental threat to our ecosystem: pollution induced by disposable masks. Every month, it is estimated that 129 billion face masks are being used globally, resulting in 3 million single-use masks being thrown away every minute. To make matters worse, not all disposable masks are being disposed of properly causing them to end up in the environment, freshwater systems and oceans. However, as this issue becomes increasingly concerning, users are favouring reusable face masks instead. But with so many reusable face masks being introduced to the market at different price ranges, how do we choose the right one with sufficient protection?
Here are some aspects that one should take into consideration when purchasing reusable face masks.
Ability to Keep High Hygiene Standards
As the main purpose of face masks is to prevent yourself from getting COVID-19 whilst not spreading it to others, your mask of choice needs to meet the appropriate hygiene standards that are based on international guidelines. Surgical masks and N95s are recommended as the most effective options due to their highly protective filters that could help capture even the tiniest airborne particle. Unfortunately, these are limited to one-time use. Adding to that, there are a number of masks out there in the market with exhalation valves that allows exhaled breath to escape unfiltered.
Prioritising hygiene while keeping the environment in mind, includes finding a reusable face mask that offers optimum antiviral protective filter similar to N95 masks. To make sure the mask is always sanitized without disposing of it, a quality face mask should also allow users to dismantle and clean easily after every use. For example, AiruFlo’s modular design enables users to disassemble the mask for regular cleaning while ensuring that the only replaceable feature is its N-95 filter that protects against 95% of 0.3 μm particles and dust. They have also removed their exhalation valves to enhance safety for not only the individual but the people around them as well.
How To Choose A Face Mask That Is Comfortable
Long hours of wearing disposable face masks coupled with hard straps and inflexible material can be distressing. For countries with humid weather, double-layering masks are especially uncomfortable as users can find it difficult to breathe, despite receiving sufficient oral protection. In extreme cases, users are at risk of experiencing hypoxia, a state when the body lacks a sufficient amount of oxygen.
To determine the type of comfort a face mask should provide, it is necessary to thoroughly assess several aspects including size, weight, and filtration material, among others A comfortable mask should provide effective breathability. For instance, AiruFlo’s modular face mask is meticulously designed to improve the flow of air, creating radius shape edges combined with N95 grade filters that are a quarter of the size of a normal surgical mask.
What Type of Materials Is The Mask Made Of
The effectiveness of a mask is determined by both its material and its ability to seal to one’s face. While fabric masks could be useful sometimes, it usually does not fulfil the safety requirements like surgical masks do, due to their relatively weaker material filtration, droplets could easily go through without people realizing it. This is a no-no for respiratory protection.
Keeping comfort in mind, soft materials like food-grade silicone which can be moulded while maintaining its durability are ideal for a reusable face mask. In terms of filters, it is best to have ones that can withstand hours of use within a day or at most can be reused for days if users are in low-dust environments.
How Environmental-friendly The Mask Is
Medical masks like N95s or KN96s may be the best options for protection against the new Omicron variant, but they often end up in landfills or the oceans, adding more pollution to our natural ecosystem. Cultivating the use of reusable masks can help lower the contribution of disposable masks waste to the environment enormously.
When becoming an environmentally conscious user, it is best to look for high-quality washable face masks with replaceable filters that can effectively filter particles nearly as well as medical-grade masks as long as they can be recycled and reused. This means looking for materials that are either biodegradable or firm enough to utilize without deteriorating over time.
Face Mask as a Trend
Now that face masks have become a here-to-stay accessory in our day-to-day lives, it is time to look for a trendsetting one that will further encourage the public to embrace this daily method of protection with a sense of self. While face masks are effective in helping to curb the spread of COVID-19, the protective gear has obstructed some people’s ability to communicate, effectively, being opaque and somewhat restrictive.
Before the pandemic, facial expressions and visual cues used to be good indicators when socialising with others. But that seems to have taken a turn as most face masks available in the market hinder people from showing off their faces. This further impacts people with hearing and speaking disabilities.
With both of these considerations in mind, we recommend that users choose reusable face masks with unique designs and made of a transparent material that can help remove any barriers in communication. This will allow users to properly communicate effectively using facial queues, particularly for those who have hearing difficulties or require speech therapy. More importantly, it allows people to embrace themselves uniquely and stylishly.