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Centre calls for action against those wearing valved N95 face masks

Valved masks are a type of close-fitting N95 mask that have a one-way valve allowing exhaled air to pass through a small round or square disc attached to the front. It is easy breathing, harmless and safe for the wearer but that is not the objective of universai masking.

NEW DELHI, July 21: The Centre has asked the State Governments to prevent the use of valved N95 masks by the public as it defeats the main purpose of universal masking, which is to ensure the wearer, who may be asymptomatic, does not transmit coronavirus to others.

“It is to bring to your knowledge that the use of valved respirator N-95 masks is detrimental to the measures adopted for preventing the spread of coronavirus as it does not prevent the virus from escaping out of the mask. In view of the above, I request you to instruct all concerned to follow the use of face/mouth cover and prevent inappropriate use of N-95 masks,” Director-General of Health Services (DGHS) Rajiv Garg wrote.

The Centre had in April issued guidelines on the use of homemade protective cover for face. A cover can be made of used cotton cloth and can be reused after washing daily. It should not be shared by others.

An N95 mask or N95 respirator is a face covering that filters 95% of very small airborne particles (0.3 micron), according to international standards. And this became the gold standard too for masks. It helps prevent spread of some respiratory diseases, especially coronavirus, which travels with aerosols or droplets propelled from the nasal and oral routes of an infected person.

But experts advise against wearing N95 masks with one-way, front valves. Because your mask's valve will protect you but is harmful for others around you. That was not the purpose of the mask. The purpoe was the wrearer who may be asymptomatic should not spread the infection.

However, the valved mask has its advantages. It allows exhaled air to pass through a small round or square filter disc attached to the front. Some commercially available cloth masks also feature a valve. Their benefits are easy exhalation, prevention of humidity and heat accumulation, and averting collection of carbon dioxide inside, unlike the normal N95 mask.

It has been banned in many places. In California, one who wears the valved mask is fined $1,000 and imprisoned for 90 days, or both. The mask was made compulsory in the first place to stop asymptomatic transmission of the virus.

The N95 masks, with or without valves, are designed to fit the face very closely and for efficient filtration of airborne particles.

The normal N95 has its own disadvantages. Experts say the N-95 face mask is harmful if used over long periods. Even for short durations it can lead to serious medical conditions in people with breathing or cardiac problems. There will be difficulty breathing and less oxygen availability.

Unlike the surgical mask which is loose, and the valved one, plain N-95 mask will reduce availability of oxygen by 20 per cent. This leads to lower blood-oxygen saturation, initially causing fatigue and disruption of work. In addition, there will be carbon dioxide inhalation which makes one feel tired and nausea and in the long run creating more problems. Heart beats will increase, so also the pulse and breathing rates. These are obviously harmful for heart patients and asthmatics.

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