These non-medical face masks provide protection from dust, allergens, air pollution, and are used by the pharmaceutical, laboratory, and industrial sectors. They’re also ideal for doctors’ offices, hospital care, dental clinics, caterers, esthetician, tattoo shops, and beauty shops.
Public face masks are single-use and are not intended to be a replacement for surgical masks or respirators such as the N95. A face covering can also serve as a reminder for individuals not to touch their face before washing their hands in public settings.
Updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends “cloth face coverings” to prevent the spread of the new Coronavirus. Surgical masks are flat, rectangular surgical face masks made of thin, paper-like material. The mask fits loosely around your nose, mouth, and chin. Surgical masks are disposable and not designed to be used more than once. Surgical masks are sterile and manufactured in a cleanroom. They are packaged separately from other masks. Typically surgical masks are made in different thicknesses that offer different capabilities to protect you from contact with liquids. These properties may also affect how easily you can breathe through the face mask and how well the surgical mask protects you. Good quality surgical masks that most people are familiar with have three layers: two outer layers (one white and one colored), and a middle layer which acts as the filter. There is only one way to wear them: with the colored side facing outwards.
Because surgical masks fit loosely rather than having a tight seal, they provide an absolute barrier or complete protection against tiny particles in the air that may be released by coughs or sneezes.
However, according to the FDA, if properly worn, surgical masks block large-particle droplets, splashes, sprays or splatters that may contain germs like viruses and prevent them from reaching your mouth and nose.
N95 Surgical Masks
An N95 respirator is a respiratory protective device designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles. The designation means that when subjected to careful testing, the respirator blocks at least 95 percent of very small (0.3 microns) test particles. If properly fitted, the filtration capabilities of N95 respirators exceed those of face masks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend that the general public wear N95 respirators to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including Coronavirus (COVID-19). N95 surgical masks are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.
There are similarities among surgical masks and surgical N95s, which include:
- They are both tested for fluid resistance, filtration efficiency (particulate filtration efficiency and bacterial filtration efficiency), flammability, and biocompatibility.
- Neither mask should be shared or reused.