Which Face Mask Should You Wear To Protect Yourself From Harmful Smoke
2020 is turning out to be a rough year all around. First comes COVID, next comes wildfires. What do these two instances have in common? They both require face masks for protection. Most of us have a stash of masks to wear out in public settings during the pandemic, but will those same face masks protect us from breathing in harmful smoke? Let’s take a look at which masks will help and which will not.
Use These Face Masks For Smoke:
N95 Respirator Mask
The N95 face masks have been highly sought after during the COVID-19 pandemic as being one of the best ways to protect yourself, and rightfully so. N95 masks are tested to meet the US standards of safety in medical settings and effectively filter out 95% of particles .3 microns and larger. This includes preventing harmful smoke from entering through the mask and into your lungs. While the filtration that a N95 mask offers is very effective, one of the most important features of these masks is the excellent fit they provide. Because the N95 mask provides a secure fit that is close to the face, it is effective at preventing smoke or other harmful particles from entering the mask around the edges. It’s secure fit and highly effective filtration make the N95 masks one of the best ways to protect yourself from smoke inhalation.
With that being said, it is important to ensure you are getting an authentic N95 mask. The simplest way to tell if your mask is real, is to check for the NIOSH approval number on the front of the mask. You can click here to review the full list of FDA and NIOSH approved N95 masks. Be sure to check that the manufacturer and the model number are listed to verify that you have an authentic mask.
Similar to the American N95 mask, KN95 masks also filter out 95% of all particles and protect against wildfire smoke, as well as the coronavirus. Typically, KN95 masks are tested to meet international standards for safety, and not necessarily US standards. However due to the pandemic and N95 mask shortage, the FDA released a whitelist of approved KN95 masks that are safe for use in emergency settings making them a great option for use for protection during the devastating wildfires happening on the west coast.
There are many KN95 masks that may not be listed on the FDA whitelist, however that does not technically mean they do not perform just as well as the masks featured on the list. It is more important to test to make sure you have an authentic KN95 mask and that is it manufactured in a FDA registered facility.
There are a few ways to test that your KN95 mask is authentic and will provide effective protection. One of these ways is by performing the water test. To perform the water test, simply fill the face of the mask with water. If your mask does not allow any water through, then you have an authentic KN95.
KN95 w/ Exhalation Valve
A KN95 mask that features an exhalation valve effectively filters out the same 95% of particles .3 microns or larger as a regular KN95 or N95 mask, but has an added valve to make it easier to breathe out which helps prevent moisture and heat buildup within the mask. While this is an excellent feature during normal circumstances, it is not the best option during the COVID 19 outbreak as it does not filter the air moving out of the mask. This means that if you happen to have the coronavirus, you will not be protecting those around you from contamination.
Don’t Use These Face Masks For Smoke:
A 3 Ply face mask is one that features 3 layers of protection and is generally effective at filtering out 95% of airborne particles 3 microns or larger. While this mask does have great filtration when worn properly, it does have a looser fit making it less effective at preventing smoke or other harmful particles from entering around the opening of the side of the mask. While this is generally less of an issue for COVID-19, smoke which fills the air has a better chance of entering the masks and making it difficult to breathe. For this reason, we do not recommend 3 Ply face masks in smoky areas.
Cloth Face Masks
Cloth face masks have gained a lot of popularity during the pandemic as they are comfortable to wear, come in fun patterns, and are reusable. While this may not be as much of a problem during COVID, they are similar to the 3 Ply mask in that they generally have a rather loose fit and only 2 layers of fabric that essentially does not provide much of a filter and can still allow smoke to enter through the mask and into your lungs thus not providing much protection.
Staying Safe During the Wildfires
While wearing a face mask in smoky areas is an essential precaution to take, the best option would be to stay inside if at all possible. Especially in areas of heavy smoke and active fires, making sure you are not subjecting yourself to unnecessary smoke inhalation is the safest option. If you do have to go outside, we suggest opting for a KN95 or N95 face mask to keep yourself safe.
As we mentioned above, one of the most important safety features in a face mask is a secure fit that does not allow leakage around the edges. If you happen to have small children, make sure that their face mask fits properly to ensure their safety.
To help keep yourself and your loved ones safe during this time, please use coupon code PROTECT15 to save 15% on all PPE equipment on sourceortho.com