Aspects in Finding the Perfect Mask for You.
Masks have become a part of our everyday life, now we are going to break down; the breathability, fashionability, durability, environmental impacts, and effectiveness different masks have. Due to COVID-19 it's important to wear a mask, whether it's a disposable mask, cloth mask, neck gaiter, or some other face covering. COVID-19 is an airborne disease that is transferred by droplets. By wearing masks we prevent the spread of those droplets keeping each other safe. Though each has their pros and cons we're going to break it down for you.
Breathability: The ability of a fabric to allow moisture vapor to be transmitted through the material. Whether or not breathability decides how effective a mask is, a good majority of people struggle when it comes to wearing masks for long periods of time. So, when looking for a mask, breathability and comfort may be the number one thing you look for. Neck gaiters tend to be the easiest to breath in due to the thin fabric they're made of, they tend to be made up of a polyester spandex material. Polyester is very lightweight and water repellent which makes it easier for oxygen to come through and go out of the mask. Next up would be the average surgical disposable masks. They are also thinner than the cloth ones and tend to be bigger on the face rather than flush against the skin allowing better air flow. When it comes to the easiest to breath in, the cloth masks would likely fall to the bottom of the list due to the thick material and how the mask hugs the face, letting little oxygen in and out.
Fashionability: Though any mask is better than none, there are people who prefer to have stylish and fashionable masks. This has created a big market for big box stores as well as individual small businesses that hand make masks and sell them
on platforms like eTsy. Cloth masks have the most accessibility to different styles due to the immense amount of fabrics and patterns that exist. Therefore, you have more options and ways to accessorize a rather normal outfit with a fun mask. Neck Gaiters can also be customized but due to the material there tends to be a smaller selection out there. Obviously there isn't much you can do with disposable masks, Photo courtesy of The Guardian:
They come in big packs and should be replaced after shows people who turn a nasty
Though you can find disposable masks in different situation into a stylish and fun
colors such as the basic blue, yellow, pink, accessory.”
and even black.
Durability: The ability to withstand wear, pressure, or damage. When it comes to masks and the type you use, they can start to add up. So choosing a 100 pack of disposable masks may be more beneficial cost-wise to buying a cloth mask or neck gaiter you can wash. That as well as how long those masks can last you. Disposable masks are only meant to be worn once, and become less efficient the longer they are worn. While wearing one you shouldnt exceed 8 hours of use, as stated by the CDC and FDA. However, if the mask is intact and not torn, it can be reused for 3 days. With propal removal and disposal, make sure not to touch the mask while on your face. A cloth mask can be washed after every use or every few uses. It should be worn by the same person but can withstand many washes and can last you a long time. Neck gaiters though able to be washed are made of a thinner fabric that can diminish over excessive washing and will not be as durable as a cloth mask.
Environmental impacts: The durability of a mask also goes hand in hand of how much waste you are producing. Right now landfills, ditches, sidewalks and the ocean are being filled with thousands of face masks that in turn are affecting wildlife. Animals, especially seagulls and birds, are getting hung by straps or getting their feet twisted to a point where they can't move. Other animals like squirrels and fish are choking on the masks that are littered around.
Photo courtesy of Express News UK. “We see masks littered everywhere, here someone shows masks they collected alongside the beach.”
Just like straws and drink covers it's important that you dispose of these masks properly. So if you choose to dispose of your masks, remember that before throwing away your mask, cut the straps off so that animals won't continue to be caught in them and get stuck. After cutting the straps dispose of your mask by throwing it in the trash rather than the side of the road.
Photo courtesy of The Guardian. “A bird has its legs tied up by a mask, and can no longer move, it has to receive help from people to de tangle." Just one of many examples of waste from disposable masks.
Effectiveness: There are masks that work better and prevent the spread more efficiently. According to the FDA the farther a droplet can travel the less effective your mask is. Without any face covering, droplets will travel more than 8 feet reaching the ground by about 12 ft. By wearing a more effective mask that reduces the distance droplets travel you are creating a safer environment for those around you by not letting the droplets reach them. The most effective masks are going to be N95’s and surgical masks, when wearing these masks droplets travel the shortest distance reducing the chance of spread. Cloth masks are second best with droplets only traveling 2 and a half inches (The Mercury News). They work best if they have more than one layer or a filter built in. The least effective masks are neck gaiters and bandanas having about a 4 to 3 foot distance that droplets can travel. (The Mercury News)
To sum it up, wear a mask no matter what kind, to keep your friends, family, and strangers safe. Find one that works for you and caters to what you need, how you function day to day, the people around, and your price point. All of it plays a part in finding what works best for you.
Story by: Ariana Pasquini '21