Indian Government warns against use of N-95 face masks with valved respirator

The Indian Government has instructed all states and union territories against the use of N-95 masks fixed with valved respirator, saying these don’t prevent the virus from spreading.

Director General of Health Services (DGHS) with the Ministry of Health in a letter to the states wrote there is “inappropriate use” of N-95 masks used among the public other than designated health workers.

The letter advised use of homemade protective cover for face and mouth.

“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,” DGHS letter read.

N95 respirator is a particulate-filtering face piece respirator that filters at least 95% of airborne particles. It reduces exposure to small particle aerosols and large droplets except non-oil aerosols. N95 respirators were originally designed for industrial use in sectors such as mining, construction and painting.

There are types of N95 masks. The valve ones that the advisory mentions has an opening on the front of the mask. Masks with a one-way valve does not filter aerosols coming out and hence can immediately affect those around. Masks with two-way valve filter aerosols coming out and going in, usually used by the front line workers fighting Covid-19.

Back in April the government issued an advisory on face masks. It said the color of the fabric does not matter but one must ensure that the face masks fabric is washed well in boiling water for five minutes and dried well before making the face cover. It also listed the procedures of making such homemade masks, asking to ensure it fits the face well and there are no gaps on the sides.

“Never share the face cover with anyone. Every member in a family should have separate face cover,” the advisory stated.