The good news is the coronavirus cases seem to be dropping. At least in India. The bad news is people are letting their guard down. Masks are not to be taken off just yet, because the spread of COVID-19 is still very much a possibility. After all, you do not know who the person you are interacting with or are in close proximity with, have also been in contact with. Knowingly or unknowingly. We still have some way to go towards returning to a mask-free world. The reality of most Indian cities is that you aren’t just buying a mask to protect yourself against the virus, but also extreme air pollution and airborne allergens. Not all masks can get the job done, and you need masks with high tech quotient to sometimes be able to protect you from airborne and mostly unseen threats. In fact, there is a school of thought that says that double-masking, or simply wearing two masks one on top of the other, may provide extra protection layers against an airborne virus. That being said, there are some really high-quality masks that can get the job done, just as one.
What should you look for in a mask? You would have come across the ratings for masks—N95, N99 and so on. The recent addition are masks that look like surgical masks and also cloth masks. Mind you, the ones that are available in most stores will not do much to protect you against pollution or indeed COVID. It is as good as tearing off a piece of cloth from a t-shirt and wrapping it around your face. It will not do much. The more serious masks meant for high levels of air filtration include multiple layers, including a primary layer that catches the larger particles, another set of layers for smaller particles (sometimes multiple) and even activated carbon.
Atlanta Healthcare Cambridge Mask Viral Safe N95: These N95 masks, developed by the UK based Cambridge Mask Co., are available with one valve These masks use military-grade filtration technology and protect you from dust, fuel-based contaminants, particulate matter, infectious pathogens, virus, bacteria, mold and spores as well as pollen. These masks have a life of 90 hours and are washable as well. The technology includes the activated carbon filter layer that is developed by the UK’s Ministry of Defense and is designed to adsorb gaseous molecules. Available in small, medium, large and XL sizes, which you should pick depending on your body weight and face structure. The ear loops are adjustable, which really adds to the comfort aspect. These washable and reusable masks are priced at Rs 799.
Breathe Easy KARBON: The Breathe Easy Karbon face masks have a self-sanitizing inner layer and have been rated at a filtration capacity of more than 95%, which means the Karbon mask has higher efficiency than most N95 masks. The Karbon masks have two layers made of patented fiber that has been sourced from the Europe and the US and has been designed using a non-melt blown technique. This means that the Karbon face masks are washable, up to 50 washes. The Karbon mask has been rated to last more than 6 months, something that cannot be said for many other N95 masks. The two layers include the layer that touches your face, which the company claims are extremely soft. The inner layer of the mask is self-sanitizing and is made of high-grade yarn fabric that kills the virus on contact. The way the bio-yarn works is that there are chains of molecules with anti-microbial properties grafted into the fabric. It is this fabric that kills virus, bacteria and captures airborne pollutants. These washable and reusable masks are priced at Rs 799.
Nirvana Being Airific 2.0: The thing is, most masks filter down to 0.3-micron particle sizes. The Airific 2.0 masks, however, have an advantage. They are certified to filter out particles as small as 100 nanometers (0.1 micron) with a 99.7% filtration efficiency. The Coronavirus, or COVID particles, are around 0.125 microns or 125 nanometers in size. The Nirvana Being Airific 2.0 Anti-Pollution Mask has electro-spun nanofibers forming web-like structures infused with antibacterial additives that are designed to filter out particles smaller than most other masks can. It is also the density and volume that matter—each mask holds over 25km of nanofiber in an area less than 1mm thick. The rest of the construction includes cotton, linen, hemp and flax materials. These masks are washable, can work for up to 200 hours depending on the pollution around you and are available in five different sizes. These washable and reusable masks are priced at Rs 995.
G1 Wondermask: Made by a Jaipur-based startup Nanomatrix Material, this mask also claims to be a corona-killer. This is one of the rare mask options that integrates graphene silver nanoparticles that is basically microscopic sharp blades complete with electric charges, that are designed to destroy viral and bacterial cells. This is a multi-layer mask, and it can also be washed up to 30 times. The ear loops also have adjusters, something that will be handy to improve the fit when you wear the mask. These washable and reusable masks are priced at Rs 299.
Van Heusen Mask with the G99+ Antiviral: Van Heusen Mask with the G99+ antiviral is manufactured using inStem’s Germicidal fabric technology which reduces more than 90% of the SARS-CoV-2 virus infectivity in 5 minutes and as much as 99.99% of the virus infectivity in 15 minutes. They say that when the virus comes in contact with the fabric, the treatment reduces the viral load of SARS-CoV-2. This has been tested under lab conditions following the modified ISO 18184 protocols. These masks can be washed up to 30 times. The G-Fab technology is developed by inStem, the Institute for Stem Cell Science and Regenerative Medicine, an autonomous institute of the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. These washable and reusable masks are priced at Rs 399 for a pack of two masks.
Guardwiser N99 mask: The Guardwiser multi-layer mask has an N99 filter that sits between an outer fabric layer that is coated with a Virus Protection Technology (VPT) and a soft breathable fabric near your face. The N99 rating makes it one of the strong contenders, because a lot of the masks in this price range are not N99. The N99 rating means that the mask has been tested to filter out 99% of the airborne particles greater than 2.5 microns. The other highlights of the mask include ear loop adjustment mechanism and the fact that this can be washed once per week and the VPT fabric will be able to protect you for a period of six months. This reusable mask is priced at Rs 999.