Does the mask really protect you?

Written by Luis Calderón

Today’s concerns in every citizen of the world are related to the protection against infections from spread viruses and other diseases that are transmitted by human-contact such as Swine flu (H1N1), Severe Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (SARS), Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) virus outbreaks in Asia, and even dust from the collapse of buildings. There are plenty of solutions in the market for our so necessary protection but, are they currently efficient against the new health treats?

An article published back in 2010 — when the current situation wasn’t even imaginable — in the Association of Biosafety and Biosecurity (ABSA) website, revealed some interesting information about the three major options in the market: Surgical Face Mask, Pre-Shaped Face Mask, Bandana Face Mask, and N95 Face Mask. In this research, these four options were tested rigorously with laboratory tests, and the results were very accurate in establishing the difference concerning the protection each of these masks is offering to the consumers.

The test results


The test results are undoubtedly full of technical details and data that need to be googled a bit. However, we can certainly take advantage of the research conclusions which are more common-person friendly. We leave the results here for research and information purposes:

“Mean mannequin filter sample concentrations were 0.022 ± 0.009 mg/L, 0.046 ± 0.005 mg/L, 0.044 ± 0.008 mg/L, and 0.004 ± 0.001 mg/L for the surgical mask, dust mask, bandana, and N95, respectively. Mean reference filter sample concentrations were 0.033 ± 0.010 mg/L, 0.050 ± 0.008 mg/L, 0.049 ± 0.005 mg/L, and 0.042 ± 0.005 mg/L for the surgical mask, dust mask, bandana, and N95, respectively. The overall mean of the reference filter sample concentrations was 0.045 ± 0.008 mg/L, which was 112.5% of target.

The surgical mask had the best efficiency of the three test masks at 33.3%. The efficiency of the bandana was 11.3%, while the dust mask had the worst efficiency at 6.1%. The reference N95 mask efficiency was 89.6%. Mannequin filter sample concentrations, reference sample concentrations, and mask efficiency data are presented in Tables 1-4 for surgical, pre-shaped dust mask, bandana, and N95 face masks, respectively.”

Face Mask Test System

Surgical Face Mask

Pre-Shaped Face Mask

Bandana Face Mask

N95 Face Mask

Our conclusion


According to the research, it is possible to say that the N95 Face Mask is the best solution in terms of dust particle protection with an efficiency of 90%. However, some factors such as penetration efficiency and particle loads of the fabrication materials, the mask’s and respirator’s fit, seriously affected the N95 mask. Therefore, it is not possible to obtain a 95% efficiency.

Finally, the effectiveness of mask protection depends on the aerosol concentration of the compound, and the infectious or inhaled dose. So, staying at home will be always a better choice instead of being exposed to a crowded sub or supermarket. It is important to follow the sanitary regulations of each country and always carry some hand-disinfectant.

If you want to know more about this research, go to the original document here.