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Enthalpy

Coffee filters as face masks?

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Posted (edited)

Hello everyone!

What do you think about misusing coffee filters as makeshift face masks against Covid-19? Several countries lack face masks in the present epidemic.

At least the shape fits the function. Cut the paper to fit the face better. Hold it on the face with surgical tape across the whole rim.

Whether paper is good? Under rain it won't last long. The pores in a coffee filter are wider than a virus, but I understand a face mask stops only the droplets that contain the viruses.

Marc Schaefer, aka Enthalpy

Edited by Enthalpy

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Posted (edited)

Face masks are designed to protect a patient from droplets emitted by a medical professional when being examined by them at close quarters, not the other way around. From what I've read so far, improper handling by untrained persons exacerbates the spread rather than inhibiting it. The overarching advice I've seen so far is washing your hands before inserting your fingers  in any of your orifices or touching your face. In summary: keep your unwashed hands away from your mucous membranes.

Edited by StringJunky

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Thanks StringJunky!

In Wuhan, all the population was advised to wear face masks.

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Well.. the primary property of a face mask is that you can still breathe. If coffee filters allow it, I guess it would make good temporary solution. Then again, I guess, few layers of most cloth would be better than nothing.

28 minutes ago, StringJunky said:

From what I've read so far, improper handling by untrained persons exacerbates the spread rather than inhibiting it.

In what way? Like not changing it regularly or something else?

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Posted (edited)
44 minutes ago, Danijel Gorupec said:

Well.. the primary property of a face mask is that you can still breathe. If coffee filters allow it, I guess it would make good temporary solution. Then again, I guess, few layers of most cloth would be better than nothing.

In what way? Like not changing it regularly or something else?

Yes and basically not doing stuff or performing hygiene actions in the right order.

Edited by StringJunky

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1 hour ago, Enthalpy said:

Hello everyone!

What do you think about misusing coffee filters as makeshift face masks against Covid-19? Several countries lack face masks in the present epidemic.

At least the shape fits the function. Cut the paper to fit the face better. Hold it on the face with surgical tape across the whole rim.

Whether paper is good? Under rain it won't last long. The pores in a coffee filter are wider than a virus, but I understand a face mask stops only the droplets that contain the viruses.

Marc Schaefer, aka Enthalpy

Have you tried them?

Properly sealed at the perimeter can you breathe through them without excessive effort? I would have thought not, and after they accumulate moisture during use, would they not tend to break down from the forces of breathing?

 

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1 hour ago, Enthalpy said:

Thanks StringJunky!

In Wuhan, all the population was advised to wear face masks.

Was it because it’s an effective measure, or because the appearance of doing something would have a calming effect? (i.e. it’s theater)

 

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1 hour ago, swansont said:

Was it because it’s an effective measure, or because the appearance of doing something would have a calming effect? (i.e. it’s theater)

 

Sure. But it can also be a clever way to make those that have the virus (and might not know it) to cover themselves.

Anyhow, I think that when people seek guidance, they will find it. So it is better for government to give some advice (even if it is a sugared water) than to delay making a decision and risking that people start looking for guidance in other direction.

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Properly used, a mask can help reduce the chance of getting the virus, especially if it is the right type of mask.

There are some motives related to making sure the supply is available to those who will need them most, especially health care workers, that have lead to some implying otherwise.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, J.C.MacSwell said:

Properly used, a mask can help reduce the chance of getting the virus, especially if it is the right type of mask.

There are some motives related to making sure the supply is available to those who will need them most, especially health care workers, that have lead to some implying otherwise.

That sounds like conspiracy-talk. The operative words are "properly used" and they have a service life and they need to be put on and taken off properly with cleaned hands after touching them. How many people can do all this intuitively? In the hands of most people they provide nothing more than a feelgood factor and are misdirecting limited supplies where they really are useful

Edited by StringJunky

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, StringJunky said:

That sounds like conspiracy-talk. The operative words are "properly used" and they have a service life and they need to be put on and taken off properly with cleaned hands after touching them. How many people can do all this intuitively? In the hands of most people they provide nothing more than a feelgood factor and are misdirecting limited supplies where they really are useful

Is anything I said less than accurate?

Some have been lead to believe a mask can't help them avoid getting the virus, as opposed to the importance of proper use.

Edited by J.C.MacSwell

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7 minutes ago, J.C.MacSwell said:

Is anything I said less than fully accurate?

I think SJ would like to know who you believe is "implying otherwise".

5 hours ago, J.C.MacSwell said:

There are some motives related to making sure the supply is available to those who will need them most, especially health care workers, that have lead to some implying otherwise.

 

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Posted (edited)
43 minutes ago, zapatos said:

I think SJ would like to know who you believe is "implying otherwise".

 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/tarahaelle/2020/02/29/no-you-do-not-need-face-masks-for-coronavirus-they-might-increase-your-infection-risk/#415bf6e2676c

Compare the headlines with the somewhat accurate article.

That is implying otherwise IMO, and implying it intentionally. If they did this with malicious intent, I think most would be a little less forgiving.

Bolding by me:

“Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!” tweeted Dr. Jerome Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General, on Feb. 29. “They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!

 

Edited by J.C.MacSwell

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I am not sure what you are seeing there, the first unbolded part is also true, as most folks are probably not handing them correctly thus providing no benefit (or in some cases increase risk) but those who could put them to good use then don't get them either. 

Edit: Do you mean the increase risk part? In my mind it makes sense - per standard biosafety procedure inproper use of face protection is a common risk (i.e. you should only use it when properly fitted, for the right application etc.). But do you mean that folks can misinterpret it somehow?

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4 hours ago, CharonY said:

I am not sure what you are seeing there, the first unbolded part is also true, as most folks are probably not handing them correctly thus providing no benefit (or in some cases increase risk) but those who could put them to good use then don't get them either. 

I've heard this type of thing stated quite often. There is really no evidence whether this is true or not true.

But let's assume it is:

The "training" required to properly put on a N95 dust mask (I wear them on a regular basis) is literally a 5 minute procedure, including how to form the nose area properly, going over the importance of being clean shaven around the perimeter of the mask, the effects of scars etc. Their really isn't more to add after that.

The remainder with regard to it's limitations for viruses could be considerable, but is certainly no harder than understanding what to do and what not to do when not wearing a mask. 

Best to avoid circumstances where you might need one if at all possible, but if you need one you are certainly better off with it on. No matter how well you put it on there is no 100% guarantee it will protect you

If you don't need one you are better off with it off. They do obstruct your breathing, requiring more effort to breath.

4 hours ago, CharonY said:

Edit: Do you mean the increase risk part? In my mind it makes sense - per standard biosafety procedure inproper use of face protection is a common risk (i.e. you should only use it when properly fitted, for the right application etc.). But do you mean that folks can misinterpret it somehow?

Clearly that tweet from the U.S. Surgeon General was born of frustration, and contains a mixed message.

What I stated above is accurate, but I don't think the Surgeon General wants that known, at least not for the purpose of his tweet. He wants masks saved for those who need them most, the health care workers that are putting themselves at risk on behalf of others.

 

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47 minutes ago, J.C.MacSwell said:

I've heard this type of thing stated quite often. There is really no evidence whether this is true or not true.

But let's assume it is:

The "training" required to properly put on a N95 dust mask (I wear them on a regular basis) is literally a 5 minute procedure, including how to form the nose area properly, going over the importance of being clean shaven around the perimeter of the mask, the effects of scars etc. Their really isn't more to add after that.

The remainder with regard to it's limitations for viruses could be considerable, but is certainly no harder than understanding what to do and what not to do when not wearing a mask. 

Best to avoid circumstances where you might need one if at all possible, but if you need one you are certainly better off with it on. No matter how well you put it on there is no 100% guarantee it will protect you

If you don't need one you are better off with it off. They do obstruct your breathing, requiring more effort to breath.

Clearly that tweet from the U.S. Surgeon General was born of frustration, and contains a mixed message.

What I stated above is accurate, but I don't think the Surgeon General wants that known, at least not for the purpose of his tweet. He wants masks saved for those who need them most, the health care workers that are putting themselves at risk on behalf of others.

 

Are you dealing with infectious particles when you wear a mask?

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Today at the supermarket and on the way by foot, I've worn a coffee filter for about 1.5h as a face mask. Observations:

  • I was too lazy to put surgical tape across the whole rim, only a few pieces perpendicular to the rim. They held.
  • Breathing through the paper wastes a manageable pressure, even when pressing the rim airtight. But the filter's volume stores exhaled air. Better a smaller volume.
  • Walking with it was fine. A strong effort on a bicycle wouldn't.
  • The other sapiens reacted about normally to it. Cats were afraid.
  • Obviously, I ignore how much protection it brings. But it didn't hurt.
  • The filter is useable for a longer time under dry weather.

Two women, one being an identified governmental spook, told me spontaneously and loudly "Masks don't serve", which is the official propaganda despite masks are requisitioned for medics which are homo sapiens too. The least sly explanation is that masks are too scarce for the whole population in Europe, so governments allege they would be useless.

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1 hour ago, StringJunky said:

Are you dealing with infectious particles when you wear a mask?

Yes, but 99+% of the time it would not be. The training for fitting is no different. It's quite straight forward. It literally takes 5 minutes.

I've been trained to use respirators, with cartridges or supplied air for hazardous environments , which takes substantially longer. Let's not confuse it with that, and let's not confuse it with training to avoid and manage the risks of infectious diseases, which as I said can be considerable.

 

 

 

 

 

12 minutes ago, Enthalpy said:

Today at the supermarket and on the way by foot, I've worn a coffee filter for about 1.5h as a face mask. Observations:

  • I was too lazy to put surgical tape across the whole rim, only a few pieces perpendicular to the rim. They held.
  • Breathing through the paper wastes a manageable pressure, even when pressing the rim airtight. But the filter's volume stores exhaled air. Better a smaller volume.
  • Walking with it was fine. A strong effort on a bicycle wouldn't.
  • The other sapiens reacted about normally to it. Cats were afraid.
  • Obviously, I ignore how much protection it brings. But it didn't hurt.
  • The filter is useable for a longer time under dry weather.

Two women, one being an identified governmental spook, told me spontaneously and loudly "Masks don't serve", which is the official propaganda despite masks are requisitioned for medics which are homo sapiens too. The least sly explanation is that masks are too scarce for the whole population in Europe, so governments allege they would be useless.

Thanks for the report. I wouldn't want to exercise with an N95 either though I've worked with them for hours on end. 

When working more vigorously or for a duration the effort can become fairly noticeable. I would assume this would be more so for someone with COPD or other breathing difficulties. 

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3 hours ago, J.C.MacSwell said:

The "training" required to properly put on a N95 dust mask (I wear them on a regular basis) is literally a 5 minute procedure, including how to form the nose area properly, going over the importance of being clean shaven around the perimeter of the mask, the effects of scars etc. Their really isn't more to add after that.

Ah but here is the rub. Dust masks only need to be fitted well and that is about it. However, a) for single use you discard them after the procedure requiring it and b) usually it is not a biohazard. Now if you wear them during your usual day, how likely is it that you do not fiddle with it, because you are not used to wearing them? How many fit the mask properly without someone checking? Also how certain are folks disposing them safely? And if they want to do that, through how many masks a day do they go? In hospital you have rather clear usage and dispose them after patient visits/treatment. Same under hazardous use. But casual use is likely result in re-use, and the moment you handle or put a potentially contaminated mask on, you increase infection risk. If it is not contaminated, it won't have helped in the first place...

Procedures are not only putting on and taking off, it also includes safe usage while wearing them, disposal and renewal. For casual use the beavioural protocols are more difficult to establish and compliance is even harder. As such I doubt a net-benefit from common usage. One of the cases where it tilts towards benefit if folks are used to use them in a proper way and have sufficient supply to use fresh ones every time. Another is probably if one is an emitter in the first place (though of course the mask would become highly contaminated). However, for the general public just wearing them is likely to accomplish little to nothing.

Also note that for common non sealed surgical masks various studies have shown that particles (representing aerosol droplets) can be recovered, which indicates that they have limited utility against airborne pathogens to begin with. The discussion whether surgical masks make sense for operations have been hotly debated for decades, for example.

Some additional concerns are a false sense of safety, after all distancing is  more effective than wearing masks in the first place and if wearing one creates a false sense of security, it increases risk again.

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1 minute ago, CharonY said:

Ah but here is the rub. Dust masks only need to be fitted well and that is about it. However, a) for single use you discard them after the procedure requiring it and b) usually it is not a biohazard. Now if you wear them during your usual day, how likely is it that you do not fiddle with it, because you are not used to wearing them? Also how certain are folks disposing them safely? And if they want to do that, through how many masks a day do they go? In hospital you have rather clear usage and dispose them after patient visits/treatment. Same under hazardous use. But casual use is likely result in re-use, and the moment you handle or put a potentially contaminated mask on, you increase infection risk. If it is not contaminated, it won't have helped in the first place...

OK. But I think this would all be generally understood by anyone trained to avoid the virus without a mask.

Yes,  you have to be careful where you put your used mask, that has been possibly contaminated by pathogens that might otherwise have entered your lungs, but that does not lead to the conclusion that they cannot be beneficial.

 

Would you make the same arguments if there were tons of available masks at $.02 each? 

Compare with the current best advice for covering a cough or sneeze with your elbow.

Your elbow has not been "fit tested" to your face, and your shirt, jacket or sweater is then contaminated.

But it's still good advice, and can help reduce the spread of the virus overall.

So can masks. 

Including reducing the risks for those wearing them. Even those with minimal training.

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If they were freely and universally available and you make training available and you can make sure that folks understand risk and benefits then yes, they can be net beneficial. Thing is, I teach student labs which includes biosafety training. From what I have seen I have a hard time believing that  sufficient folks would get it right.

I mean I could be wrong and there may be net benefits but I do have my doubts.

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In the Czech Republic from March 18 on, people are requested to wear a face mask in public. As masks can't be bought, people sew some themselves. A virologist feels DIY masks have some usefulness:
n-tv.de and n-tv.de
(in German, but the information must exist in other languages).

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Posted (edited)

Hi.  Two years ago, I bought three styles of respirators, to evaluate installation of microphones for certain projects.

Found this one as leftover behind my spider webs ----> https://www.ebay.com/itm/264540251953

And wonder if being for painting, carpentry dust, fumes?...  could be used for microorganisms.  It only filters during aspiration; at exhale disc valves open freely the flow towards ambient.

The filtering cartridges are removable/replaceable ----> If they are soaked in ethanol (and dried!) as for periodic desinfection; would they still be safe ?  Same about the coffee filters and other paper/fabric ones if shortage pushes to reuse them.

Edited by Externet
Replaced link.

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