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The Ban on Respirator Mask Valves

Posted by PK Safety Team on Jun 22nd 2020

The Ban on Respirator Mask Valves

Wearing masks in public has become a crucial part of protection for COVID-19. Some states and major cities have made mask-wearing a requirement. “Masks” can mean handkerchiefs, specially designed cotton masks, or disposable masks (such as N95 respirators) as long as they cover your nose and mouth. However, some locations have banned masks with valves.

What is a Mask Valve?

Some masks or respirators will have a piece of plastic embedded in the fabric. This plastic is a one-way valve that closes when you breathe in and opens when you breathe out. The mask valve doesn’t let pathogens in, but allows your exhalations to leave the mask. Early mask valves were designed for industrial workers who needed to be comfortable while working a long shift, and the modern ones are generally intended for home improvement projects or as a way for companies to distinguish their designs from competitors.

Will Mask Valves Protect Me?

The CDC recommends that hospitals don’t use N95 respirators with valves when a sterile environment must be maintained, like in operating or procedure rooms. This rule was set because the valve allows unfiltered air to escape from the mask into a sterile environment. While there’s no known difference between masks with and without valves in terms of personal protection, a mask with a valve isn’t going to protect the people around you.

There are a lot of unknowns about the COVID-19 virus, but the consensus is that it’s airborne and that people can be infected for weeks before showing symptoms. Even a cotton mask will filter the air you breathe in and out, where a valve doesn’t. Masks are a type of safety equipment protecting you and the people around you, and using a mask with a valve negates half of that protection.

PK Safety Protective Gear

Keeping workers and DIYers safe is an integral part of PK Safety, and as the coronavirus continues to be a global issue, we want to help you stay safe as places near you open. Check out our plan for keeping our workers safe without compromising good service, and contact us online or by phone at 800.829.9580 for help with your workplace safety plans and equipment.

Make sure you’re buying quality respirators. Here are four ways to easily tell if your masks are fake N95 respirators.

HOW TO SPOT A FAKE N95 MASK