When purchasing a face mask, the filtration efficiency of the mask, the instructions for use and the type of mask should be looked at, the Estonian Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA) said.
The quality and properties of the masks are very different and it is not possible to say what quality mask someone is wearing only by looking at it, TTJA said. People can make all kinds of masks themselves and wear them anywhere if they want, but it is necessary to meet different requirements when selling them.
As there is a lot of confusion with homemade and fabric masks, TTJA has compiled the so-called minimum requirements that must be met when marketing masks.
The minimum requirements are based on the content of the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) guide CWA 17553, the most important of which is that the filtering properties of the masks must be tested and written on the package, the strength of the cords tested and the package must contain instructions.
"For example, the label on the packaging must not refer to a protective mask, as it is not a personal protective equipment intended to protect the wearer," Ingrid Teinemaa, head of the technical department of TTJA, said. "Consumer masks work similarly to surgical masks and are primarily designed to reduce the spread of the virus."
It is also worth looking for indications on the packaging of the mask on sale, for example, whether it is a reusable or disposable face mask, and in the case of a reusable mask, whether it includes instructions on how to wash it. "Virologists have said that washing at least at 60 degrees Celsius is necessary to destroy the virus particles. The reusable mask must be made of a material that can withstand a 60-degree wash. If the packaging refers to, for example, a 40-degree wash and there is no reference to ironing or disinfection to ensure that the virus particles are destroyed, it is a disposable mask," Teinemaa said.
The requirements that should be met for masks offered for sale depend on the characteristics of the mask. Homemade masks are generally classified as community or consumer masks and it is recommended to follow the CEN guide CWA 17553 describing the requirements for community masks, which sets out the minimum requirements for masks, their testing and use.
Much more important than the type of mask are the ways in which the mask is worn. "The mask must be worn correctly - it must be put on with clean hands, hands should be washed after removing the mask, the mask must cover both the mouth and the nose, an already used mask must be discarded, if the mask has become wet, it must be replaced. The mask must not worn on the chin, on the head, only in front of the mouth, it must not be crumpled together to be placed in the pocket, so that it can be put on again in the next place," Teinemaa said.
"Wearing the mask incorrectly can be detrimental instead of beneficial, because inside the used mask, the world of invisible particles begins to live its life, and inhaling it can cause new troubles."
Teinemaa added that the mask is not a miracle cure for avoiding the virus. Both healthcare professionals and virologists have said that the mask alone is not helpful in preventing disease. As the person may not know if they are ill because there are no visible symptoms, a distance must be kept with the mask on as well so that any invisible virus particles are not transmitted to other people. It is also necessary to disinfect hands, because people touch their faces and various surfaces with their hands and therefore diseases are also transmitted via hands.
Editor: Helen Wright