Filter respirator masks, especially N95, surgical and non-medical masks, provide negligible COVID-19 protection for the following reasons:
1. Viruses in the fluid envelopes that surround them can be very small, so small in fact that you would need an electron microscope to see them. N95 masks filter 95% of particles with a diameter of 0.3 microns or larger. COVID-19 particles are .08 - .12 microns.
2. Viruses don’t just enter us through our mouth and nose, but can also enter through our eyes and even the pores of our skin. The only effective barrier one can wear to protect against virus exposure would be a fully encapsulated hazmat suit with cuffs by ankles taped to boots and cuffs by wrists taped to gloves, while receiving breathing air from a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA).
This barrier is standard gear to protect against a biohazard (viruses) and would have to be worn in a possible virus hazard environment 24/7 and you wouldn’t be able to remove any part of it even to have a sip of water, eat or use the washroom while in the virus environment. If you did, you would become exposed and would negate all the prior precautions you had taken.
3. Not only are N95, surgical and non-medical masks useless as protection from COVID-19, but in addition, they also create very real risks and possible serious threats to a wearer’s health for the following reasons:
A. Wearing these masks increases breathing resistance, making it more difficult to both inhale and exhale. According to our Alberta government regulations on respirator (mask) use, anyone that is required to wear a respirator mask should be screened to determine their ability to safely wear one.
Any covering of the mouth and nose increases breathing resistance, whether the mask is certified or not. Those individuals with pre-existing medical conditions of shortness of breath, lung disease, panic attacks, breathing difficulties, chest pain in exertion, cardiovascular disease, fainting spells, claustrophobia, chronic bronchitis, heart problems, asthma, allergies, diabetes, seizures, high blood pressure and pacemakers need to be pre-screened by a medical professional to be approved to be able to safely wear one. Wearing these masks could cause a medical emergency for anyone with any of these conditions.
Pregnancy-related high blood pressure is possible. More research is necessary to determine the impact of wearing a mask for extended periods of time on pregnancy.
It is dangerous to recommend, much less mandate anyone with medical conditions to wear a mask without educating them about the risks involved in wearing them without having been pre-screened and approved by a medical professional first.
B. In order for any respirator mask to offer protection to a specific user, that user must be individually fitted with the right type, right size, if male – face must be clean shaven (only short moustache allowed). Next, the user must be fit tested with that respirator by a trained professional to determine whether or not the respirator is providing the user with an air-tight seal – a requirement for any respirator mask.
C. N95 masks – N for not resistant to oil particles, 95 for the percentage of protection – the lowest level of all respirator masks
These masks even when properly sized and fitted will not protect against virus exposure, however they are capable of adequate protection from larger particles such as pet dander, pollen and sawdust.
Surgical masks (the paper ones that loop around the ears) – do not seal to the face and do not filter anything.
Nonmedical and/or homemade masks are dangerous because:
● Not engineered for the efficient yet protective requirements of easy inhalation and effective purging of exhaled carbon dioxide
● Could cause an oxygen deficiency for the user
● Could cause an accumulation of carbon dioxide for the user
● Shouldn’t be recommended under any circumstance