Can Masks Save the World?
Updated: Jan 22, 2022
You really don’t want to get COVID. Even if you have no obvious symptoms, which is most people testing positive for COVID — that doesn’t mean you are safe. One test showed 65.2 % of asymptomatic males with lowered testosterone — which, besides, interfering with your sex life — not a big thing now that no one is doing hump-bump — may predispose you to other infections, since this also means lower immunity.
In addition, this lower testosterone may affect women too — who depend on this hormone for all sorts of stuff, which is why it is often prescribed for menopausal symptoms. Lower testosterone results in not only lower sexual desire but depression, lethargy and muscle weakness.
Add to this, the really BIG and frightening fact that COVID19 hasn’t been around long enough to know much about long-term effects How long? We don’t know. How bad? Does the damage COVID do predispose you to cancer or other diseases and shorten life? We don’t know.
Rumor and politicization of issues don’t help. For example, the all-round best vaccine in terms of efficacy, price and safety is Sputnik V, which scored about 92% effective according to the Lancet, and in real-world tests of 3.5 million people — 97.6% effective. But you can’t get this vaccine in many countries due to American pressure to buy their vaccines.
You can spend hours, days, and weeks researching on the Internet and come away more confused than when you started.
Prevention is best
That means: social distancing, of course. You get COVID from other people. So keep a distance. No sweaty hump-bump. Those nasty little virions spray from the nose and mouth every time an infected person breathes. And the more you of the little buggers that get in, the harder it is for your body to fight back. Viral load matters. VLM!
Masks help — but they only reduce viral load. And they are often improperly worn, if worn at all.
Some researchers think that the masks may act as reservoirs for virions, which is why medical masks are disposible. Cough once or sneeze — and a virus particles built up inside the mask are emitted.
Still, to reduce infections in others, masks are necessary. Multiple studies have shown at least a 70% reduction in transmission.
Not all masks are equal. And they have to be worn properly.
You may have a snazzy-looking vinyl mask that fits tight but doesn’t filter. Or a PM 2.5 mask that doesn’t fit and leaks all over the place.
The Gold Standard is a disposable, bespoke five layer medical PM 95 mask. A wee bit expensive for most folks.
An NCBI article states:
It is critical that the materials’ edges conform snugly to the face to prevent aerosol from entering gaps between the face and mask. The mask must not enable viral inhibition by the lips, tongue, and saliva. Ideally, the mask does not contact the lips, or there is at least one hydrophobic layer fabric in contact with the face, so aerosol trapped from the exterior does not wick through the mask and become transported by the mouth. Because aerosol transport through a mask is predicated on forced convection air flux, it is recommended that individuals wearing masks reduce inhalation intensity when placed in contact with an unsafe aerosol. Not any cotton rag but a 2.5 PM five layer mask with an active carbon filter, as one of those layers. The mask must seal effectively. It will not completely stop virions — but it may reduce viral load to a level your body can handle. Exhaust filters help by exhausting contaminated air — but are, of course, dangerous to other people if you are infected.
A five layer PM 95 filter can block up to 90% of particles compared to 40 to 50% for cotton mask. But this depends on the seal — and lack of contact between the lips and fabric. That is a problem with almost every mask.
So, if you are an at-risk person, what’s the best mask for you?
The Respro Mask
For me, it’s a bicycle mask. That’s because I ride a bike in the city, and I wear it all the time anyway. Along with a face shield.
The best is made by the English company Respro. It makes a a 2.5 PM mask that filters down to the sub micron level. You can buy it with a rubber seal frame — the Pro Seal (sold separately) that keeps the filter out of contact with your lips, and with the addition of head strap (sold separately ) provides a good seal around the face — in four sizes, small, medium and large.
Here’s their advertising blurb.
Use a respiratory mask that incorporates an Activated Charcoal Cloth layer together with a submicron particle filter layer (combination filter) as it has the ability to adsorb viral matter in both the micro and the nano range of sizes by means of entrapment and adsoprtion. Whilst a P2/P3 industry face mask will trap particulates which may well carry viral matter (micro size), they are seldom bespoke and only come in one size. This increases the chance of a misfit by the user, especially if used by children or if they are not shown how to fit a mask properly or undergo a fit test~This means that a percentage of unfiltered air will bypass the filter completely. What these masks cannot do is adsorb the viral matter on its own, this happens with DACC as it operates on both a different principle and size scale (nano size). So whether that rated mask is P1/2 or 3, is not a significant factor. The correct fit and the seal are!
The caveat is that it won’t protect other people since it has exhaust valves. So, it should not be worn by low-risk populations, such as young people, who are mostly asymptomatic. .
So, want to protect others?
Tape over the valve inside, when you are in social “contact” situation. Nope, virions don’t go through plastic tape. That forces you to breathe out through the mask materials, bypassing the exhaust valves, which are intended for easy exhalation when your lungs are working hard.
For a short visit to the Supermarket or drugstore or a trip on the subway, using the mask this way is socially responsible and just as comfortable . The ProSeal rubber frame makes for easy breathing.
When you are cycling or walking distances, peel off the tape. Remember these mask were created to save the lungs of cyclists in narrow polluted streets of Europe.
Respro also (apparently ) sells a PM 99 filter, although it does not recommend it for sports.
Yup, they come in various colors and designs.
A caveat is that, without a head strap, the mask tends to slip down. With the optional head strap, you get a very secure fit.
In addition, the style of such masks might not be for you.
Fortunately, there are now a lot of rubber face brackets that can be used with disposable PM 2.5 filters. They are inexpensive.
There are a lot of different varieties and shapes. You may have to shop around to find one that actually fits your face and doesn’t slip.
Such innovations are particularly useful for women since they don’t spoil makeup as much as a simple mask. You may also find it easier to breathe.
Among the many advantages of the Respro mask and filter is that they come in sizes. The Respro mask is optimized for people biking — which means their lungs are inhaling and exhaling many times more air than just walking around. So, in addition, they include a HEPA type filter in addition to the activated carbon layer, which filters below one micron! The filters last between one and two months, depending on usage.
The common 5 layer disposable filter sold on Amazon is convenient.
I prefer the Respro Mask, because it simply the best cycling mask on the market and I bike a lot. As a COVID mask it works especially well since it also has a HEPA filter-- and it's comfortable. I could buy cheaper masks on Amazon but I would probably buy several. The filters are not quite as good and must be changed all the time, compared to the RESPRO filters which last me a month or two at a time. The RESPRO mask ends up being both more effective AND cheaper!
Whatever you do--mask up. Keep your distance. Protect others and yourself.
Masks won't save the world. But you can.