Invisible Clouds

There’s nothing more eerie than waking up to dense morning fog, is there? Driving along as if you’re the only car on the road when sudden high beams flash three feet in front of you is enough to cause a heart attack. Whoa (swerving madly)! There’s a car! We once drove through hairpin curves in the mountains of pea soup. We were half afraid we’d drive off the edge of a cliff if we kept going and equally afraid if we stopped, we’d be hit by cars coming behind us. As cute and fluffy as clouds appear on a sunny day, they can be deadly.

That’s especially true in this virus-laden world we know as life in 2020. A recent article in Medical News Today described the average cough or sneeze as a “multiphase turbulent buoyant cloud.” Imagine an invisible cloud teeming with coronavirus swirling around within tiny droplets of fluid. The cloud floats like dust particles through the air, and we’ve all seen that on a sunlit day, so it’s easy to imagine a gaseous cloud of a life-threatening virus in the air we breathe. The newest research suggests virus suspended in teeny tiny water droplets can hang in the air and travel 200 times farther than once projected. New research unfolds data almost hourly, and so standards change. We’re all left feeling a bit insecure by these seemingly conflicting reports, but the evidence speaks for itself. The virus lives outside its host and travels in bioaerosol droplets from one host to another. Keeping that fluid outside of your lungs is what keeps you healthy.

The newest terminology in mask production is fluid resistance. Simply put, it measures the strength of the masking material in deflecting these droplets just ten micrometers in size. A CDC infographic shows the differences in types of face masks. Surgical masks are designed to deflect large droplets, sprays, and splashes of bodily fluids. They are tested by spraying synthetic blood at a velocity of 80 to 160 mg of pressure and then checking for permeability. These are perfect for the operating room and normal medical procedures. They were never intended to protect against bioaerosols of a floating virus.

Masks that filter out 95% of all particles are the gold standard for protection from these aerosol threats in the air.  Common filtering facial respirators (FFRs) in this class include the N95 and KN95 models. It was never expected that the entire US population would need them, so when the pandemic struck there wasn’t enough for hospital personnel, much less frontline workers, and average citizens. That is changing. The US government has labored diligently in setting standards for mask development that allows every citizen the opportunity to wear a mask that protects against deadly viruses. Stopping the virus means limiting the number of hosts available for its transmission, so the next phase in this war on the coronavirus rests in wearing effective masks.

The fluid resistance of these masks blocks the transmission of 95% of droplet emissions, hence the term N95 and KN95. So here’s the thing: If you are going to wear a mask, do you want one that is effective or one that isn’t? Yes, it’s that simple. In choosing a mask you are interested in fit, price, and effectiveness. Choose a mask that offers fluid resistance to virus-laden water droplets. We at Ecohealth Kc are pleased to offer masks that will protect you.