Can Dust Masks Protect Me From COVID?
Your dust mask is not NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) approved as a disposable filtering facepiece. Instead, it’s a dust nuisance mask, non-toxic and can do an excellent job at protecting you from dust when in a workshop or while mowing, gardening and dusting. Concerned about whether a dust mask will protect you from COVID-19? It’s definitely not the best solution. We’ll explain why.
Dust Masks vs. Respirators: For COVID
A dust nuisance mask, also sometimes known as a surgical mask, comes with a single strap that goes behind your head. As these masks cover your nose and mouth, they prevent other people from becoming exposed to the liquid droplets coming out of your mouth. But since they aren’t very tight, they should ideally not be used as a protection against COVID-19
Everybody came across the famous N95 and KN95 masks during the pandemic. While the N95 is NIOSH-approved as a respirator, 60% of the KN95 masks that NIOSH evaluated during the pandemic were not up to the mark. Instead, it’s just the N95 and P100 — both of them come with two straps, offer a tight seal and are entirely made out of a filtering material, making them much better against COVID-19.
Difference Between a Dust Mask and a Surgical Mask?
A surgical mask is made out of non-woven fabric and offers excellent protection against bacteria. The best surgical mask comes with three layers — fabric, a plastic sheet and another fabric. They help slow down the spread of COVID-19 but should not be your ultimate choice. Dust masks and surgical masks offer (give or take) the same level of protection against COVID, however, since surgical masks have three layers and a tighter grip, they’re usually considered better.
Will a Dust Mask Protect Me Against COVID-19?
The answer is yes. A dust mask will protect you against COVID-19 but it should not be your go-to choice. If you’re asking as somebody who works in a dusty environment, a woodworking shop for instance, then it’s alright if you wear it. Just make sure the others in the shop are also wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
One thing you can do to make sure your dust mask gives you ample protection against COVID — wear it over a surgical mask. It may make it difficult for you to breathe while working but it does the trick. If you’re heading out, we suggest using an N95 mask but if you don’t have it, you could pair up two surgical masks or a surgical mask along with a dust mask.
The purpose is simple — you need to protect your nose, mouth and eyes from coming in contact with the infected surface or person. As long as your mask lets you do that, you’re set. Since there’s no way to be sure, you can always double up on face protection, practice social distancing and hope for the best.
Does My Mask Protect Me if Nobody Else Is Wearing One?
Your mask will definitely offer you some level of protection against COVID but it’s always better if everybody else is also wearing one. Think of it like this — if two people are talking to each other and both of them are wearing masks, the protection against COVID is (let’s assume) 90%. If only one of them is wearing a mask, the protection level automatically dims down to 45%.