What is a three-ply mask?
Generally speaking, a 3-ply mask is made up of a melt-blown polymer placed between non-woven fabrics. The melt-blown material is supposed to act as a filter that stops microbes from entering or exiting the masks and pleats are commonly used to allow users to expand the mask such that it covers the area from the nose to the chin. These masks are secured to the head with ear loops, head ties, or elastic straps.Most surgical masks used by healthcare professionals are also 3-ply masks.
Boon or Bane?
However, there is a lot of criticism going around regarding these 3-ply masks. First and foremost, as most of us know what a surgical 3-ply mask looks like, it’s safe to say we are aware that the edges of 3-ply masks do not form a tight seal around your nose or mouth. Consequently, the air around you tends to find a path of least resistance, thereby allowing viruses and aerosol to enter your air passage, upon inhaling.
Research also says that the melt-blown polymer used cannot filter out small airborne nanoparticles such as those transmitted by breathing or talking. In short, these masks can only filter exhaled air, removing/catching droplets, and do not offer filtration on inhaled air!
This is why 3-ply masks are not good enough as a barrier from COVID-19 and other harmful viruses and bacteria. It is advisable to wear them if and only if you are infected with the COVID-19 and want to prevent exposing others in your immediate surroundings.
Further, many fly-by-night manufacturers use substandard masks which often lack the central filtration layer. These masks are ending up at medical stores where unaware buyers end up purchasing them!
What’s more, The New York Times reported recently that the virus causing COVID-19 can remain airborne for a period of time and thus transmit itself. A majority of scientists have cited evidence that the virus can travel distances longer than 2 metre, and can linger in the air for a long duration.
Because aerosols are smaller, they contain much less virus than droplets do. But because they are lighter, they can linger in the air for hours, especially in the absence of fresh air. In a crowded indoor space, a single infected person can release enough aerosolized virus over time to infect many people, perhaps seeding a super-spreader event.
During such trying times, it has become more important than ever to innovate.
The only solution with higher efficacy for smaller nanoparticles is nanotechnology. Standard masks, which are somewhat porous, cannot filter nanoparticles smaller than 0.3 microns whereas masks with filters made using nanotechnology can filter particles down to 0.1 micron. Therefore, the right kind of mask is reusable and washable with a nanotechnology filter as a middle layer.
The fit of your mask is of utmost importance because if it does not seal your face properly, it is useless. Also, you should refrain from using disposable masks. COVID-19 is here to stay for at least a year- it is essential to adopt a solution that is sustainable and lasts you upto a minimum of two months.
We believe that nanotechnology filters are sure to become the future of face masks with the virus and bacteria particles becoming smaller and smaller. Join us in our endeavour to make the world a safer place to live in.