Totobobo mask hits 25 countries

The recent H1N1 flu triggered a sudden sales increase for face masks and Totobobo, the first customizable face mask is now hitting 25 countries across the world. The reusable mask is more reliable than N95 masks in determining face seal and this feature is greatly appreciated by parents traveling with young children during this holiday season.

a teenage girl wearing Totobobo mask
a teenage girl wearing Totobobo mask

The current H1N1 flu triggered a sudden increase in sales of face masks and Totobobo, the first customizable face mask, is now hitting 25 countries across the world. This is a new milestone for the company, Dream Lab One, the producer of the Totobobo mask.

Travelers, cyclists, wood-turners and artists alike have found this reusable mask highly effective in blocking out polluted air and various irritants. Sales of this reusable mask has increased significantly and it has received rave reviews from users around the world.

“This mask may have saved my life. First, the mask is made out of a rubbery material, so it sticks naturally to your skin. After I found the perfect position on my face for my mask, I no longer have any problems with breathing…at all…period. My nose has cleared up, my eyes are no longer irritated, I don’t cough or sneeze at all anymore. It’s comfortable and it doesn’t fog my glasses! I hardly know I’m wearing it!” said Paula Ford, a satisfied Totobobo user and a pastel artist residing in Tennessee, United States.

Individuals who rely a lot on respiratory masks tend to live in environments that contain either polluted air or airborne disease pathogens. An effective mask helps to filter out polluted air and airborne virus. There are two conditions that determine whether a respiratory mask is effective. First, it needs to seal the wearer’s nose and mouth snugly. Second, the filter material must be able to filter out the smallest of particles.

“Money can buy high quality filters, but a good seal has been a hit-or-miss affair,” said Francis Chu, the designer of the revolutionary mask. His design provides a simple and intuitive solution call VSC (Visual-Seal-Check) for the user to check the face-seal.

Easy Visual-Seal-Check (VSC):
To ensure good respiratory seal, normal N95 mask users can only rely on their ability to feel the air-leak around their face. Such method is not reliable and sometimes it gives a fault sense of security. Francis believes his transparent mask allows users to check the seal intuitively and to ensure minimal seepage of polluted air.

To verify this, he sent the mask to a hospital and compared the Visual-Seal-Check (VSC) with the gold standard respirator fit-test, a high-end quantitative system called PortaCount from TSI Incorporated. The result showed strong correlation (90%) between the prediction of the Visual-Seal-Check (VSC) method and the result of the gold standard fit-test proving his intuitive method effective.

“The Visual-Seal-Check, or VSC, is much more reliable than the seal check found in other N95 masks. This study shows that face-seal can be determined simply by checking the seal through the transparent mask,” says Francis.

5 years old boy wearing Totobobo mask
5 years old boy wearing Totobobo mask

Over half of the recent orders are coming from parents traveling with children. They appreciate the possibility to customize the mask to fit their young children. With the VSC they are more reassured that their children are getting the optimal protection.

To buy Totobobo mask (International)
To buy Totobobo mask in Singapore

Recent visitors
Recent visitors

Demonstration of Totobobo mask to D&T teachers

Francis was invited by the Curriculum Planning and Development Division of the MOE to give a talk to a group of D&T teachers about the design process of the Totobobo mask. He demonstrated how to put on and take off the Totobobo mask during the presentation.

Here is the video of the demonstration:

“I was motivated to find a solution to protect my children after the SARS incidents.” Francis explained. “None of the N95 mask fit children because they were all designed and certified for adult in occupational context.” To ensure protection, the mask must fit the user’s face snugly and forming a good seal. Most people do not realize that and thought they are safe by wearing an N95 mask. In fact they need to validate the seal by going through a fit-test by qualified facilitator and with specialized equipment to check the seal.
A study in Prince of Wales Hospital suggested 1 in 4 health care worker thought they have a good seal but in fact it’s not.
Another study “Respiratory Donning in Post-Hurricane New Orleans” (published on the US CDC website in May 2007) further highlight the challenge to achieve a good seal. The researchers found 76% participants were not able to demonstrate proper donning for a good seal and their protection has been compromised.

After experiemented with hundreds of hand made prototypes, the solution that Francis came up was remarkably simple- construct the mask with transparent material and you can immediately see where it touches the skin, or not. To validate this principle he compare the results of fit-tested Totobobo mask with the visual-check prediction. The result was more than 90% accuracy, much higher predictability than any other mask available in the market. In a practical sense, the Totobobo mask come with it’s built in fit-tester.

D&T teachers sitting behind the early hand made prototypes and benchmark masks
D&T teachers sitting behind the early hand made prototypes and benchmark masks

To cater for the face size of small children, Francis developed a unique method to attached the strap onto the mask. Different from all competitive product the strap of Totobobo mask is not attached to the edge of the mask, but away from it. This new method allows the mask to be trimmed to easily fit all children from 5 years old. Such approach would appear unthinkable because in a normal mask design you would cut off the strap as well. But looking through the hand made prototypes the solution seems to be logical- Francis has been cutting a lot of masks to fit his children!

The D&T teachers and the guests were impressed by the innovation. “Can I buy the Totobobo mask for my students in Art & craft class?” asked one of the teachers. “Sure, and you will get a special education discount too.” Francis answered with a smile.

How to perform a Visual-Seal-Check (VSC)?

New user seal check of TOTOBOBO mask predicts fit-test success rate

Totobobo masks are able to fit a wide range of large and small faces. However, it is not possible to claim that it will always seal your face perfectly. Sometimes it may require adjustment of the strap and the position of the mask to improve the seal. Sometimes trimming down the mask to a smaller size may help.

The purpose of a Visual-Seal-Check is to provide a fast and reliable method to evaluate the face seal, without the need of fit-test equipment.

User-seal-check of a normal respirator (e.g. N95 mask) involves the steps of cupping the filter area with hands, forcefully inhaling and/or exhaling to sense if there is air-leak. Such method relies on the user’s ability to feel the air movement around the leak area. Several studies have shown that this method is not reliable.

The Totobobo Visual-Seal-Check (VSC) method (patented) is facilitated by a very fine texture moulded on the inside of the transparent mask. In normal condition, the surface is dry and it appears as semi-transparent. The same surface turns transparent if there is water stuck on the surface. Even a tiny amount of water trapped between the mask and the face will make the surface change from semi-transparent to complete transparent.

To do a simple Visual-Seal-Check, you apply a little moisture on your face, than put the mask on. Observe the edge of the mask. Where it is completely transparent, there is a good seal. Where it is semi-transparent, there is no seal. It is considered as a good overall seal if there is a continuous transparent band circle around the nose and mouth.

Our user test using a TSI PortaCount system in a hospital, the gold standard of respirator fit test, shows there is a strong correlation (90%+) between the Visual-Seal-Check (VSC) and the standard fit-test results. In other words, it is possible to predict if the mask will pass or fail the gold standard fit-test by performing a TOTOBOBO VSC. This is particular useful for people who don’t have access to a proper fit-test system.

Milky surface indicates the face seal leak location

Milky surface indicates the face seal leak location

Transparent surface indicates good face seal of Totobobo mask

Transparent surface indicates good face seal of Totobobo mask

TOTOBOBO mask in NIOSH site

Totobobo mask was spotted in NIOSH NO-FIT-TEST workshop page    Totobobo mask was spotted in NIOSH NO-FIT-TEST workshop page

I was surpriced when my friend show me this page in CDC site. NIOSH, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health under CDC, is the US organization who certify the well known N95 mask. What made TOTOBOBO, a little known Singapore invention of respirator mask, appears in this heavy weight website?

No, TOTOBOBO is not certified by NIOSH, at least not yet. The picture of an early version of TOTOBOBO mask found in the NIOSH website is to serve as an inspirational example for a “No Fit Test” filtering facepiece respirator workshop. The workshop will be conducted in Nov. 6 later this year and the objective is:

“To better understand the interdisciplinary research needs and challenges in developing and certifying a universal “no-fit-test” filtering-facepiece respirator”

I think this is totally appropriate and it shows NIOSH recgonize the need to improve the current procedure in order to motivate manufacturers to innovate toward the direction of “No fit test” respirator. 

Why is this big fuss about “No fit Test”?

If you read carefully the fine text of your respirator instruction, you will notice a statement similar to this:

“Before use of this respirator, a written respiratory protection program must be implemented meeting all the requirements of OSHA 29 CFR 1910,134 such as training, fit testing, medical evaluation, and applicable OSHA substance specific standards.” 

The simple fact is, the rated protection value will be drastically reduced if the mask does not fit your face, and there is no other ways to tell except by doing a fit-test. Buying a mask is easy, but getting a mask fit-tested on each individual is a challenge. In emergency situation like flu pandemic or haze outbreak, it is simply not possible to get everyone a fit tested at once. 

One can start to sense the “pain of fit test” and how touchy this issue is from the following comment in one of the NIOSH science blog :

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NIOSH debate how often to fit test
NIOSH debate how often to fit tes

Hopeful to see Fit-Test to be lifted– Edward Hernandez, City of Hialeah, Fire Rescue says:- Thank you for proposing a study as this. For a while now this OSHA (Fit-test) requirement  has been a burden to our Fire/EMS service.

Hopeful to see Fit Test to be simplified-Peggie Reinhardt, RN BSN, says:

I would be interested in this study, we currently fit test our employees annually. If this process could be shortened or redesigned so that it was easier to do would help tremendously.

Fighting to keep Fit-Test in organization– Sgt. Julie Love says:

I would be interested in being part of this study on the law enforcement side. We fit test our officers annually but many departments do not. Law Enforcment traditionally has fallen down in this area as many agencies just give their officers their masks without any fit testing. We also fight the battle with our management with what is mandated.

Worry that No-Fit-Test= Not Safe-Kevin MacDonald says:

 I am concerned that changing the fit test frequency while cost effective may defeat its overall purpose. when fit testing went from every 6 months to one year as a requirement of OSHA it was a step back.

Confused and concern-Kelly Russell says:

I am glad this study is being done. Respiratory fit testing is expensive for employers and it will be good to have a current answer when asked why we have to do the testing so often….or maybe not so often as the case may be.

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No matter what, the setting up of this workshop itself is already a breakthrough, and we are definitively happy to be associate with the solution side of the problem. We hope the result of the workshop will bring more practical innovation into the design and certification of respirator, especially taking people like housewife and children who don’t have access to fit-test equipment but also deserved to have good protection when situation come.

Time for a better mask to protect children

“Totobobo is far superior to any other mask on the market. Period!””

7 years old Kayla wearing Totobobo mask, fighting Leukemia with the support from her mother, Debbie
7 years old Kayla wearing Totobobo mask

“After the Chemo Kayla is still immune compromised. This mask is our safety net that has proven its workability.
When Kayla did not have the mask and went to school she ended up in the hospital for two weeks, every month, for three months, totaling 45 days. With the mask -no sickness, no hospitalizations, no colds, nothing.
Your mask is far superior to any other mask on the market. Period! ”

– Debbie Witte, Kayla’s mum @ www.freehelpforcancer.com

Debbie known that her daughter Kayla needed proper respiratory protection if she wanted to play with other children. Kayla tried all sorts of masks: surgical masks, N95 masks but none of these work. Due to her compromised immune system after the Chemo-therapy, Keyla fall sick easily time after she play with other kids. Undefeated, Debbie continued to search. One day, a Google search led her to the Totobobo mask. After studied the website, she decided to give it a go. Much to her delight, the Totobobo masks works!

Filter + Face seal = good protection
The principle of how Totobobo mask work is simple: Isolation (good seal) and filtering.

principle of respiratory mask protection

Good protection = good seal + good filter

“Good protection is built on two factors: a good filter and a good seal“.

Surgical mask is not good enough

You may have seen news on TV that many school kids in Asia wearing surgical masks during the SARS. But the fact is surgical mask was not designed to prevent air-borne contamination. There are gaps from both sides that virus can bypass the mask easily.

sugical mask showing gaps from both sides

Surgical mask is designed to protect nurses or surgeons from contaminated blood splash during an operation. In Japan it is commonly used to reduce the risk of spreading the flu virus from the wearers when they are sick. The protection value of surgical mask from air borne virus is a big question mark.

N95 mask effectiveness: fit-testing is a problem

Adult N95 mask big gaps on child's face

Respirator (e.g. N95 mask), on the other hand, is designed to protect the wearer from air borne virus. This is only possible if the respirator is making a good seal on your face such that air have to go through the filter before entering the breathing zone. However a proper fit-test can only be conducted by a trained specialist with special equipment, which is simply too complicated for the public.

Manufacturer come up with “user seal check” which typically involve blocking the filter and blow into the mask while wearing it. To feel that if there is any air leak from gaps around the mask. But such practice is questioned by a study from the Prince of Wales Hospital in Hong Kong. The study suggested there is 25% of failure rate when trained users apply the standard “User seal check”. The standard user seal check recommended by most manufacturers is just too ambiguous and unreliable. “It’s usefulness as a pre-use test must be questioned”, the report concluded.

Another study “Respiratory Donning in Post-Hurricane New Orleans” (US CDC, May 2007) found 76% participants were not able to demonstrate proper donning for a good seal and their protection has been compromised.

TOTOBOBO mask improve user seal check by 25%

Main features of TOTOBOBO mask
Main features of TOTOBOBO mask

When looking for a respirator to protect his kids, Francis Chu, the inventor of TOTOBOBO mask, encountered the same frustration as Debbie. He became aware of the many difficulties faced by parents and determined to come up with a better solution. He applied his expertise in product design and experimented with hundreds of prototypes. Finally he came up with an ergonomic design that fits most people and can be customized to fit children.
He understand that beyond a good seal and good filter, other issues like comfort, cleaning, reuse, portability are all important factors need to be addressed before the mask can be considered as “Child Friendly”.

Following is a summary of the issues and respective solutions embedded in Totobobo:

PROBLEMS………………………………….. SOLUTIONS

Children’s face size varies …….…….. Trim it to fit small faces

Hard to determine a good seal …… VSC Visual Seal Check makes it easy

Difficult to disinfect (for reuse) …… Anti-virus mask easy to clean and safer to reuse

Children’s skin is delicate………… FDA approved, non allergic soft material
……
Not easy to carry………………..…………. light weight, folded flat

Parents and school teachers from different parts of the world have discovered the new solution for their children. If you are looking for an effective mask to protect your child, TOTOBOBO is exactly what your are looking for!

“It is the only mask out there that fits my boy and give him adequate protection.”
– Bob Williams, Knoxville , USA

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Read more about TOTOBOBO mask for children :

The best fitting mask for children

Say no to pollution in school buses

Time for a better mask for children

Protect children from incense smoke

Transparent mask make easy seal check

How to’s

How to customize TOTOBOBO mask for your children?

How to wash TOTOBOBO mask for reuse?

How to check the mask-to-face-seal without fit-test equipment?

Clearly a Better Way to Check for Safety

The protective function of a respirator mask is based on two functions;
(1) the filter media must let in air but stop harmful and unwanted particles from entering the breathing zone.
(2) the mask must fit the user’s face and form a complete seal so that no air bypasses the filter media and enters the breathing zone directly.

Filter + Face seal = good protection

principle of respiratory mask protection

Modern technology has produced highly efficient filter media that can achieve up to an incredible 99.9% filtration efficiency. Ensuring a secure mask-to-face fit, however, is not nearly as simple. Rarely do users achieve a professional-grade fit, and they are surprised when they do.

Fit-testing is a task that requires a trained professional, special equipment, knowledge and skills, and considerable time. There is QUALITATIVE fit test based on subjective senses of the user, and there is QUANTITATIVE fit test based on objective measurement which compares the particle counts inside and outside of a mask. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that such a fit-test be conducted yearly for each user so as to ensure proper usage. Fit testing can determine if a mask fits the user during the test, but can not tell for sure if the mask still fits the user days or months afterwards. These fit-testing procedures are limited to occupational users and not commonly available. The general public has neither the equipment, nor training, nor expertise, nor regular access to professionals who do in order to conduct professional-grade testing on their protective respiratory masks when they need it.

In a recent study “Respiratory Donning in Post-Hurricane New Orleans” (published on the US CDCwebsite in May 2007), researchers found 76% participants were not able to demonstrate proper donning, resulting in the compromising of their protection. This study group should know a thing or two about proper protective mask use considering the ordeal they went through during the post-Katrina clean-up of New Orleans. Imagine in an emergency situation, what would happen if the public needed to wear respirators to protect themselves? How many of these people will be able to fit their mask properly? Less than 24%, perhaps? CDC has been reluctant to recommend N95 masks for the public use because for 3 out of 4 people the poorly fitted respirator may provide a fault sense of security and encourage risky behavior.
The Prince of Wales Hospital of Hong Kong conducted a study where subjects who had previously passed a fit test were asked to properly don a N95 mask and then check for adequate sealing. These same subjects were then given a TOTOBOBO mask which they have not previous experience and conducted the same test. The results found that although the TOTOBOBO mask performed slightly less than the N95 mask, most test subjects did achieve the appropriate fit and pass the test. How did the non-fit tested Totobobo match the fit-tested N95 mask for this group of users?

Transparent surface indicates good face seal of Totobobo mask
Transparent surface indicates good face seal of Totobobo mask

The TOTOBOBO mask solves the uncertainty about proper fit in a simple but extremely effective way. The transparent mask makes fit checking an easy task. Check around the perimeter of the mask and you can immediately decide if the face seal is good or not. This simplicity, combined with a soft material that comfortably fits your face, makes fitting a lot more intuitive and reliable. Now you can perform a more reliable face-fit check every time before entering a contaminated area. This is certainly more reassuring than relying on once a year fit test.

Reference:
ESICM Annual Congress-Totobobo-mask-1044