NEWS RELEASE June 2020
Efficient Masks Should be the Primary Weapon to Vanquish COVID
If everyone including transmitters and recipients were correctly wearing N100 masks there would be no COVID transmission. If everyone wore an N30 mask the infection rate would only be cut in half. So mask efficiency makes a huge difference.
We have to separate capability from operability and then upgrade the operability to utilize the maximum capability.
Health officials confused operability and capability from the earliest days in the COVID spread. Even after it became apparent that 40-60% of the transmission was from individuals with no signs like coughing or sneezing officials resisted the mandate to require efficient N95 masks. The reasoning was that they were in short supply and needed by healthcare workers.
Since lower efficiency e.g. N30 masks could be made available, they were recommended on the basis that most of the transmission was from coughing and sneezing of large droplets. There was never any claim that these masks would prevent exhalation of small virus aerosols generated by breathing, talking, or singing. Now that it is proven that these small aerosols are responsible for most of the transmission inefficient masks are of little value.
When both transmitter and recipient are wearing 95% efficient masks the recipient inhales only 0.25% of the virus
Compare this to the N30 mask where the combination results in the recipient inhaling 49% of the virus.
The N30 masks result in nearly 200 x the virus inhalation of the N95 mask.
The N80 mask would result in only 4 % inhalation. This makes it 12 times better than the N30. Even the N95V mask with a valve is very good with only a 5% inhalation. It is 10 times better than an N30 mask.
There are arguments that the virus is transmitted from surfaces to the hands then to the eyes or nose. However, if everyone is wearing an efficient mask there will be no virus on surfaces.
It is now clear that masks have the capability to vanquish COVID the challenge is now to improve the operability.
The two critical aspects of operability are availability and execution. Availability is limited by mask media as well as mask production. The meltblown media production has expanded considerably. However, it is only a small percentage of what would be needed for 3 billion people to be wearing N95 masks. Sinopec demonstrated that in three months you can add enough capacity to make 10 million masks per day. However if people use disposable meltblown N95 masks, the daily mask production could be as much as 1 billion masks per day. This would require an effort 100 x larger than the Sinopec effort or the equivalent of 100 more producers the size of 3M.
An alternative is the N80 mask using spun bond media. 30,000 extra tons per year would be needed. U.S. non global nameplate capacity of spunbonded/spunmelt polypropylene nonwovens is over 4.7 billion tons per year. So this requirement is comparatively small when compared to disposable diapers.
Nanofibers offer another alternative with potential for higher efficiency and lower resistance. This approach does not rely on a permanent electrostatic effect. Therefore these masks are washable. Nanofiber laminate media can be readily available.
Many companies are making masks and many more are eager to do so. There are critical design aspects such as obtaining the right fit and maximizing breathability. But there are no great hurdles to overcome.
Execution: There may need to be some funding for masks in developing countries. But the cost of masks will be far less than the cost of any other approach to defeat COVID. At $100 per year per person x 3 billion people we are looking at a $300 billion yearly market. This is sizable enough to warrant the attention of the world’s largest fabric and PPE companies.
The first task is to correct the misinformation and help governments understand the importance of the mask initiative. At the same time the suppliers have to have plans in place to expand to meet demand. McIlvaine is addressing the needs with a three pronged program in Coronavirus Technology Solutions. Each initiative includes daily Alert coverage, webinars and analysis. The initiatives are
- Masks and other PPE
- Filters and HVAC
- Decontamination, monitoring and other products
For more information on Coronavirus Technology Solutions Click here for more information