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We Indians are well aware of the importance of face covers after the toll of the second wave. As new, more virulent mutations hit India, many of us are now becoming cognizant and switching to scientific masks. Having said that, many mask companies and retailers have been offering a variety of fashion-forward facemasks. These are high on fashion, but lack function. With many masks being produced by textile companies rather than scientific, certified manufacturers, how do we know that mask is working? Of the endless options, which masks will keep us, and the people around us, safest?
For those who worry about how they look, a reusable cloth mask that comes with a unique pattern or a branding logo offers more potential than a plain, not-as-fashionable alternative. But it can be more difficult to determine whether a cloth mask picked up in a clothing store or online can protect the user, compared with a reusable mask that has typically passed certain certifications to be sold. Another challenge is that sometimes false claims are made about certain cloth masks(about bacterial and viral filtration), while the manufacturers do not have the certifications to validate these claims.
Let’s understand what are the main features to look for in a mask. The COVID-19 particle size is about 0.125 microns in diameter. A cloth mask is simply unable to filter nanoparticles of that size, or even close to it. Therefore, only a mask that can filter down to 0.1 microns in size must be your mask of choice. Frankly, the only media that filters down to that size of a nanoparticle with a high efficacy is nanofiber.
The Airific N95 mask by Nirvana Being is made using a nanofiber filter and is an antiviral and antipollution mask with a Viral Filtration Efficiency (VFE) and Particulate Filtration Efficiency (PFE) > 96% as tested by Nelsons Labs, USA. So if you choose a mask with a high VFE and PFE, you are covered regardless of the virus mutations or new variants as the particle size of the COVID-19 virus does not change. A designer cloth mask is just optics; it does not offer protection to the wearer on the inhale. On the other hand, the Airific is the perfect amalgamation of fashion and function as it not only makes you look good, but also protects you from respiratory illnesses.
Secondly, avoid getting caught up in the whole marketing hoopla of number of layers in a mask – you only need 3 – outer layer, the nanofiber filter and the inner layer. Each additional layer adds a breathing resistance on the inhale and exhale, which makes the mask uncomfortable.
Furthermore, your mask must fit well and form a seal around your face. Choose a mask brand that offers multiple sizes so you get the best fit for yourself and your loved ones. An ill-fitting mask is as good as not wearing one at all.
Lastly, you should refrain from using disposable masks. COVID-19 is here to stay for a bit - it is essential to adopt a sustainable mask that is reusable and washable and lasts you up to a minimum of three months.
To conclude, do your part and choose a mask that protects you as well as others around you, not one that only looks good. Remember, you can only beat science, with science.