Fact check | Are surgical face masks better against the …

The H. Hart Hospital in Mol no longer allows fabric mouth masks. Patients, visitors and staff must now wear a surgical mouth mask. “Surgical mouth masks are better against the spread of the virus,” said coordinator of Kempen Hospital Network Rudy Ballaer.

‘The decision has been made to guarantee safety for patients, staff and visitors. Surgical mouth masks prevent the spread of the virus better than substances, ‘said coordinator Rudy Ballaer on Tuesday Gazet van Antwerp. Professor of Product Development Jouke Verlinden of the University of Antwerp also thinks that not all face masks are equally efficient in blocking virus particles. ‘Surgical mouth masks are extensively tested and are therefore more suitable. It is logical for a hospital to choose that option. A fabric mouth mask is sufficient for a normal public space. ‘

Is it true that surgical masks protect us better than cloth masks? And which mouth mask protects whom?

The standard tested several face masks (DS July 10). All types of masks, from a surgical mouth mask to even a tightly woven scarf, will stop most particles above 5 micrometers (0.005 cm). What exactly does that mean? ‘Above 5 micrometers you are dealing with drops. They need the corona virus to survive and move around, ‘says Hans Helsen, sales & support engineer at Envicontrol and the man who carried out our test. ‘If you can stop those drops when you exhale, then you’re pretty good already. Not necessarily for yourself, but to protect others. ‘

“Some homemade face masks are no more than a piece of cloth to stop your own spit, but that is enough to protect others,” said Helsen. So if you wear a homemade mouth mask or scarf, you barely protect yourself. They do filter the largest particles from the air, but not much more than that. In addition, most masks, including surgical masks, still allow air to pass through the sides. ‘And as soon as there is a leak, they actually no longer filter. So it is better to buy a mask that fits well. ‘

Only the hospital mouth mask and the (better) surgical mouth mask achieve the filtration degree of a professional FFP-1 mask. The FFP masks are intended for the medical sector and are also tested for virus survival rates. “So they really do serve as personal protective equipment,” said Helsen. ‘But even those FFP masks do not necessarily stop all possible viruses.’

The lack of high-tech FFP masks was a problem during the first corona wave. These masks therefore offer more protection than ordinary surgical masks and are primarily intended for doctors and nurses who come into close contact with patients.

One mask is not the other. There is sometimes a significant difference in quality even between the different types of surgical mouth masks. For example, the Chinese-made surgical mouth mask scored well in our test.

Conclusion: Surgical mouth masks are tested more for the survival rate of viruses and therefore come out better. That is not to say that cloth face masks are useless. It’s a matter of good and better. For homemade fabric masks it remains important that they are best washed daily at 60 degrees with detergent.


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