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Common Masks vs. Protective Masks

Let’s first distinguish between two main types of masks - the common face mask and protective masks, or respirators, which are rated for filtering ultrafine particles. Face Masks such as cloth and surgical masks are loose-fitting coverings that are meant to protect others from the mask wearer. Respirators such as proper Anti-Pollution Masks on the other hand are meant to protect the wearer from inhaling dangerous air-borne particles, while they also protect others.

Here are the key differentiators between the two categories of masks:

Uses for Masks:

  • Masks are loose fitting, covering the nose and mouth
  • Designed for one way protection, to capture bodily particles/fluid leaving the wearer
  • Example – worn during surgery to prevent coughing, sneezing, etc on the vulnerable patient
  • Contrary to belief, masks are NOT designed to protect the wearer
  • The vast majority of masks do not have a filtration rating assigned to them (e.g. PM2.5 or PM0.3)

Uses for Respirators:

  • Respirators are tight fitting masks, designed to create a facial seal
  • Respirators provide good two way protection, by filtering both inflow and outflow of air
  • These are designed to protect the wearer (when worn properly), up to the safety rating of the mask
  • Available as disposable, half face or full face

It should be noted that while respirators are the ideal mask to protect both the wearer and the public in the case of an airborne viral pandemic, cloth and disposable surgical masks are of course better than no mask at all, and are still advised since respirators are not always readily available to everyone.

Whilst cloth and surgical style masks are not redundant by any means, they aren’t designed to protect the wearer, whilst respirators are.

Valved vs Non-Valved Respirators

Valved respirators have a special air outlet valve or chamber that make it easier to exhale air. In this setup the exhaled air doesn't need to move through a filter, which makes it easier to breathe and exhale hot and humid air. This makes them more comfortable to wear, and leads to less moisture build-up inside the respirator.

HOWEVER, the problem with valved respirators is that they do not filter the wearer’s exhalation, only the inhale. In a situation like Covid-19, this one-way protection puts others around the wearer at risk. It is for this reason that hospitals, medical practices and some jurisdictions do not allow valved respirators.

How can CUVU Anti-Pollution masks help?

CUVU anti-pollution masks are similar in structure and capability to respirators, and do not have one-way valves, protecting both users and the public. The 3M filtering material and technology used in making CUVU anti-pollution masks make them ideal for filtering not only common air pollutants, but also ultra-fine particulate matter PM0.3, including particles as small as bacteria and some viruses. Unlike other anti-pollution masks that are valved to quickly exhale air, CUVU masks have extra-large dual-way ventilation ports. This allows for easier breathing, but also ensures that both inhaled and exhaled air is properly filtered, protecting both the user and the public.