Face masks are an important first line of defense against the inhalation of contaminants and the minimizing the spread of disease. The good news is that you don’t need a high-end respirator to protect against the vast majority of hazards that you will encounter. However, it’s important to know that different masks offer varying degrees of protection, and you should be aware of their benefits and limitations. Let’s take a look at the most common items on the market today so that you can build a stockpile of masks based on your needs and expectations.
The first thing to realize is that masks are not created equally. A mask that is designed to prevent the inhalation of dust from sanding or grinding may not be sufficient enough to protect you from chemical or biological contaminants. Surgical masks may be effective in terms of reducing exposure to pathogens, but they may clog easily if you are using them for household projects. Both may not protect you against the inhalation of certain gases or chemicals.
Standard surgical face masks are designed to filter out particles that are larger than three micrograms in size. This includes many pathogens that contribute to common infectious diseases such as the flu. However, the effectiveness and quality of masks will vary depending on their manufacturer and intended use. Make sure that you look at labeling on packages to ensure that you are purchasing masks that will filter out common pathogens that could lead to serious health risks during a survival situation.
You generally have two options when choosing a surgical mask. One option is wear a mask that has a strip of plastic or thin metal across the top that can be crimped to fit over the nose. The other is to wear a thin mask without a strip that is made from flexible material. Some also have adjustable straps that can be tightened to produce a more secure fit. Ones with metal provide a tighter fit, but they can also irritate the bridge of the nose if worn for an extended period of time. In all cases, surgical masks will not provide an airtight barrier against contaminants, but they do act as a powerful line of defense.
Respirators are generally made from plastic and rubber and include adjustable straps and a filter. Some masks allow you to replace the filter whereas other products are disposable. Respirators are intended to provide a higher level of protection and can filter out both solid particles as well as gas. However, they do not usually filter petroleum products. Filter masks can be found in a variety of sizes, and some cover the nose and mouth whereas others cover the entire face, including the eyes.
It is important to know what type of hazard you are going to encounter when choosing the appropriate face mask. If there is a flu or other biological outbreak that you want to protect against, then a surgical mask will help you in a couple of ways. First, particles won’t be able to get past the barrier when you inhale. Second, you are less likely to touch your nose or mouth with your hands while wearing a mask, which is one of the leading ways of disease transmission. However, if you are facing a chemical contamination crisis, then you will want a filtration mask instead.
It is also important to know that masks will not protect you against everything. They do not filter out radiation, and if you are exposed to corrosive gases, the mask may not protect the surrounding skin, and certain chemicals may still be able to penetrate the material. Make sure that you are aware of the nature of a hazard so that you can take appropriate action. However, face masks are a simple, affordable and effective barrier against being exposed to a wide-range of contaminants, including dust particles, and maintaining a supply will offer you an additional line of defense during a time of crisis.