Masks Vs Respirators
Although the world has become better acquainted with PPE, the words ‘mask’ and ‘respirator’ are still being used interchangeably far too often. This results in a great deal of confusion amongst the general public. To put it simply, masks and respirators are not the same thing. The question that needs to be answered then; what’s the difference?
Message From The CEO
This is Peter Whitby, CEO of O2 Canada (O2 Industries Inc.). With the arrival of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), there has been extreme demand for masks and respiratory protection, and hence a lot of attention on the subject. In recent days, we have seen various individuals claiming to represent O2 and a lot of misinformation online regarding our product, the O2 Curve. I am writing this letter to tell the story of O2, and state the facts about the O2 Curve.
O2 Canada is a Canadian business founded in 2014. We are a Class 1 Medical Device company registered with Health Canada. Our company mission is to help millions of people breathe clean air. O2 Canada is a registered trademark of O2 Industries Inc. and our operating name.
When we started studying air pollution and engineering masks, we carried out research at the Air Pollution Research and Innovation Laboratory at the University of Waterloo. This is now the Green Energy and Pollution Control Research Lab1. During our studies of dust masks and disposable masks, we learned that leakage is the biggest challenge. Air is like water in that it takes the path of least resistance and any gap will result in unfiltered air bypassing the mask. This led us to focus on developing the high-performing medical-grade silicone seal for our mask, the O2 Curve.
The O2 Curve
In testing at the Green Energy and Pollution Control Research Lab, we achieved filtration efficiency of 98.6% against PM2.5. The testing covered particle sizes ranging from 0.5 to 5.0 microns.
Experimental testing of masks and filters was initiated by Professor Zhongchao Tan at the Air Pollution Research Lab. A quantitative respirator fit testing (QNFT) was conducted to quantify the leakage between the respirator (i.e. dust mask) and the face.
Five different masks and their filter membranes were tested on three different facial sizes (using mannequins) to assess performance on different facial profiles. Here were the key findings2:
- Performance of dust masks depends on both face and mask shapes
- Penetration of Particles through Filter Media shows the penetration for micron particles through tested filter media as a function of particle diameter at an air flow rate of 30 lpm. Results showed that the penetration rate increased as the particle size decreased.
- The difference between these standard deviations shows the importance of how the mask is mounted on the face in different times.
- Ergonomics are highly important. Achieving an air-tight seal is critical for mask performance.
- Passed Nelson Labs Valve Leakage Test (TEB-APR-STP-0004)
- Passed Nelson Labs Exhalation Resistance Test (TEB-APR-STP-0003)
Specifications for the filter media used in the O2 Curve:
No mask is capable of protecting you 100% against any other dangerous substance or virus. In particular, the Coronavirus is a new virus that is not yet fully understood. We cannot and we expressly do not guarantee that our masks will protect you against the Coronavirus.
Letter from Filter Manufacturer: “[We are] a manufacturer of advanced materials. These engineered composites are made for numerous applications, including respiratory markets. Many of our customers service critical applications and must meet rigorous standards such as NIOSH and EN149 regulations in order to sell face masks and respirators. O2 Canada’s choice of using our media in their face mask design provide them with the assurance they need to meet such standards. Additionally, the sites these materials come from are all ISO 9001:2015 certified."
N95 is a certification administered by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health under the Centre for Disease Control in America. The O2 Curve does not have this certification and does not claim to have it. N95 is based on passing three tests looking at valve leakage, breathability, and a load test. O2 Curve has passed two of these tests at Nelson Labs, but due to the compact nature of our filter it is not compatible with the load testing procedure. The filter simply doesn't have enough surface area to pass the test. The filter membrane has advanced specifications, and is a premium product providing premium protection as noted above.
Our manufacturing partners conform with the following standards:
- CSA8000 – all high level of Corporate Social Responsibility ensuring no child labour is used.
Please consult your doctor when deciding whether and how to incorporate an O2 mask into your health-care routine. Content in this blog is for reference purposes only and is not intended to substitute for advice given by a physician or other licensed health-care professional. You should not use this information as self-diagnosis or for treating a health problem or disease. Contact your health-care provider immediately if you suspect you have a medical problem.
Due to the serious nature of this virus, the filter should be discarded and the mask should be sanitized and washed between uses. Please follow the guidance provided by the World Health Organization on proper mask use3.
We are very pleased with the engineering and performance of the O2 Curve and our premium filters. On behalf of the team at O2, we encourage you to stay safe during this crisis.
Breathe Life In,
- “When and How to Use Masks.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-and-how-to-use-masks.
- “Green Energy and Pollution Control Research Lab.” University of Waterloo, uwaterloo.ca/green-energy-pollution-control-research-lab/.
- Tan, Zhongchao. Laboratory Evaluation of the Performance of Dust Masks for Air Filtration. 2016.