There are so many types of Face Masks on the market, it can be difficult to understand the difference.
Face Masks have become such a large part of our life, it’s important to pick the right kind and style! We will walk you through everything you need to know about Face Mask and Respirators.
Why wear a Face Mask?
Whether you’re in the Medical Industry, Customer service or your regular joe, it’s crucial you’re protected against nasty particles. A Face Mask acts as a barrier between you and the rest of the world, serving as protection from foreign bacteria’s entering your airway. If you’re contagious, a Face Mask traps harmful particles from escaping and infecting others. When first putting on a Mask ensure your hands are clean, making sure it fits nice and snug to avoid air escaping. Masks are usually one time use (unless cotton reusable), so it’s recommended to change every 4 hours as protection decreases. When removing a Mask avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
What are the different standards in Face Masks?
There are multiple regulations and standards surrounding Face Masks, knowing the difference is critical to figure out the best type for you. When Masks are imported into Australia, regulations may differ as countries have alternative methods to measure standards.
The ASTM International defines certain standards to ensure the quality and safety of Face Masks by employing several tests. These tests evaluate Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (BFE), Differential pressure, Resistance to penetration by synthetic blood and Flammability. The Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (BFE) uses a percentage to measure the reduction in concentrations of aerosols in the air, the higher the percentage the better filtration. The Face Masks are then classed into levels for barrier protection. Level 1 being the least protective against fluid exposure, while Level 3 being the most protective against fluid exposure. When a Mask features ASTMF2100 It has been given the standard ASTM test. These levels are only applicable with Surgical Face Masks.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is an Australian governmental regulatory agency that sets guidelines in order to regulate the Face Mask Industry. Each Face Mask must meet a definition of a medical device: They must be used for the prevention of the transmission of diseases between people.
Standards Australia is another body that also sets guidelines in Face Mask manufacturing. While changing their guidelines and harmonizing with both the ASTM and European standards in 2015, when a Face Mask features AS4381:2015 they are abiding to Standards Australia regulations. When Face Masks are placed on the European market, they must be approved by the European PPE Directive. When a Face Mask features EN 14683:2019 they are abiding to European standards.
Valves in Face Masks
Certain types of Face Masks may come with the option of a valve, this may seem appealing but can also reduce your protection. The valves are made of durable PVC and usually comes in N95 or KN95 Masks. Their main function is to provide easier exhalation through a one-way valve, filtering the air you breathe in. Valves allow air to escape through the valve rather the top of the Mask, keeping your glasses fog free.
Duckbill vs. Cupped Cone Style
Two main styles that the N95 and KN95 feature are the Duckbill and Cupped Cone Style.
Named after its shape, the Duckbill style usually features a folding side that doesn’t come into contact with the mouth, allowing for easier breathing and speaking. These Masks are designed to sit firmly on the face forming a tight seal around the nose.
The Cupped Cone style has similar functions. The cone style also allows for easier breathing and speaking, as the Mask doesn’t come into contact with the mouth. The elastics are usually around the head, rather than around the ears to ensure the tightest fit. The Mask usually has a metal strip moulded around the nose for maximum comfort.
Golden boy of the Face Mask Industry, the N95 is one of the best on the market. To be labeled as an N95 mask, it must comply with NIOSH requirements. NIOSH is a US federal agency responsible for conducting research regarding occupational safety and health. Offering maximum protection, the N95 has a Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (BFE) rate of 95%. Constructed from durable non-woven polypropylene fibers, they are able to filter out very small particles of about 0.3 microns in size.
The N is considered a Respirator Rating Letter Class, meaning the ‘N’ stands for no-oil. This indicates that the Mask struggles with filtering oil-based particles, and is best used in environments free from these particles. The ear loop or elastics around the back of your head, ensures a tight fit while holding the Mask in place. With a flow rate of 85L/per minute, it’s no wonder these are one of the best Face Masks out there.
The KN95 closely related to the N95, is also one of the best Face Masks on the market. The KN95 uses layers of synthetic materials to filter 95% of very small particles, about 0.3 microns in size. The main difference between the N95 and KN95 is they are regulated by different organisations. Regardless of certifications, both share similar materials, shapes and filtration properties. The KN95 comes in both the Duckbill and Cupped Cone style, offering options for valves. The KN95 is widely popular and a highly effective Mask, with both ear loop and tie back options available.
Medical and Surgical Masks
Medical and Surgical Masks are the most common type of disposable Face Masks, traditionally used by Medical Professionals. Available in multiple colours, Ply’s and levels of protection to cater your personal needs. Foam strips are usually added to the Mask to ensure comfort and efficiency, preventing air from escaping through the top. The Medical and Surgical Face Mask is made of three layers. The Outer and Inner layers consist of hydrophobic non-woven plastic, preventing water from entering the Mask, while the Middle layer contains a melt-blown filter. The Medical and Surgical Masks feature both ear loops or head elastic options.
Every single batch of Livingstone’s Face Masks are tested by Independent Third Party Laboratories to comply with the exacting filtration standard, for your absolute security and peace of mind. Batch testing is costly and time consuming which may not be practiced by other brands.