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
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?
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.
ESICM Annual Congress-Totobobo-mask-1044