Face Masks: What You Need To Know For COVID-19

Facemasks have been compulsory to wear for all Victorians for over a month now. So, our Melbourne-based environmental consultants thought they’d go in-depth into the science and logic behind them – how they work to fight the spread of COVID-19 (and viruses in general) and, their effectiveness.

How they work

Put simply, face masks protect you from spreading germs by preventing respiratory droplets from making their way into the air. As a face mask is meant to be worn to cover your nose as well as mouth – this also works both ways in that it protects respiratory droplets from others from entering your body as much as possible. It’s a simple yet effective method. If two people are chatting and both are wearing masks – then it’s double the protection.

How is COVID-19 transferred?

The current evidence shows that COVID-19 is transferred primarily through people coming in contact with infected surfaces as well as respiratory droplets and secretions being inhaled. Avoiding touching unnecessary things and washing your hands regularly is imperative (and also essential even when there isn’t a pandemic) but wearing a face mask will help you fight the other transfer methods.

The science behind their design

Viral particles are typically extremely tiny. However, when they first leave the body, they’re much larger which is how they get trapped in the face masks. This is why it’s crucial that everyone wears one – to mitigate the number of viral particles that make it out. The closely knitted fibres within the masks are more effective at preventing large viral particles rather than particles that have had a chance to evaporate and travel farther – it is these smaller particles that are harder to combat against and what the masks seek to avoid.

The material matters

One of the key components of a functioning face mask is the material it’s made from and how well it’s made. Cotton fabric masks with at least three layers are recommended by the Victorian Chief Health Officer and should be washed every day (based on a full day of constant use). N95 masks are also highly effective but unnecessary unless you are a health professional. Similarly, surgical masks are single-use disposable masks that are regularly used by health professionals – but, can still be used by everyone else.

That being said, using a non-disposable, triple-layered, tightly woven cotton fabric mask is your best option when you have to go out. The reusable factor is highly desirable as it ultimately mitigates the environmental impact left by the constant discarding. If you are using surgical face masks in Melbourne – our environmental consultants recommend making an effort to cut the elastic parts off before disposing of it as it has been found that seagulls can get tangled in them – like this gull in the UK. Bandanas and scarves are not nearly as effective but are still acceptable as they are better than nothing.

Oxygen and CO2 “issues”

One of the more popular myths is that wearing a mask will restrict your oxygen intake. This is, however, exactly that – a myth. Professional surgeons have been wearing masks for decades during high-pressure operations that have lasted several hours in indoor environments without being starved of oxygen. If the mask is made properly and from the correct materials, then you will have no problem breathing whilst wearing it. Another “concern” is that wearing a mask for a long period will cause you to breathe in trapped CO2 that will lead to brain damage. This is, again, a myth and not a legitimate concern since the masks don’t have an air-tight fit around your face.

Is this a permanent fix for COVID-19?

Absolutely not by any stretch of the imagination. However, it does actively work to mitigate the spread should two people be close to each other. Face masks must be worn in addition to people washing their hands and using hand sanitiser appropriately and also keeping a 1.5m distance from other people when outside. There are some exemptions of when you don’t have to wear a face mask – one of which is if you have a relevant medical condition such as respiratory issues that may be affected by wearing a mask. For a full list of exemptions check the Victorian Health and Human Services website.

Are you in need of environmental consultants in Melbourne?

These are difficult times for all – but as an essential service, Alpha Environmental is still operating at full capacity and is ready to deliver high-quality environmental solutions to you or your business. We offer several services including:

Our environmental consultants operate efficiently and professionally – adhering to the social distancing laws appointed by the state, which includes wearing a mask at all times.

If you’d like to get in touch with our environmental consultants to discuss any one of our services – then please don’t hesitate to call 1300 039 181. Alternatively, you may also contact us using the enquiry form on our website.