Specialty Fabrics Review May 2020 - 55

MARKETS

FOCUS

Transmission electron
microscopic image of an
isolate from the first U.S. case
of COVID-19, formerly known
as 2019-nCoV. The spherical
viral particles, colorized blue,
contain cross-section through
the viral genome, seen as
black dots. Image: Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention.

Nonwovens for
infection containment
Nonwoven fabric products are on the front line of disease
containment efforts, while often being misunderstood and
misused by the general public.
BY JEFF MORAVEC

I

t's easy to misunderstand viral respiratory diseases, whether the current pandemic outbreak
of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) or past events such as severe acute respiratory syndrome
(SARS) in 2002−2003. When they fade from the news, people often assume it's because
a cure was found. In fact, what happens is that human-to-human disease transmission is
merely contained-in large part because of the use of nonwoven fabrics in the production of
face masks and respirators.
At the same time, the use of such masks and respirators is widely misunderstood, especially
by members of the public who want to protect themselves from exposure.
"There's a lot of confusion in general about what personal protection products can and
can't do," says Dave Nelson, director of industry engagement for the Nonwovens Institute
in Raleigh, N.C., and a 45-year veteran of the nonwovens industry.

Mask components

PROTECTIVE PROPERTIES
In early 2020, manufacturers such as 3M, Honeywell and others experienced a huge surge
in demand for masks approved as N95, a protection level designated as appropriate for use
against viral respiratory diseases by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
(NIOSH), which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nonrated
masks do not provide the same level of filtration as a NIOSH-approved respirator, as they are
neither tight-fitting nor capable of providing sufficient filtration over a wide range of particle
sizes, experts say. In addition, surgical masks (except those that have an N95 NIOSH rating)
are designed to contain droplets and aerosols coughed or expelled from the wearer, not to
protect the wearer from airborne aerosols.
"The difference between a 'face mask' and a respirator is significant," says Chris Plotz,
director of education and technical affairs for INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics
Industry in Cary, N.C., with some of the confusion coming from the fact that respirators are
often referred to as face masks, blurring the difference.
"A respirator is designed to fit your face uniformly," he says. "It also has a much larger
surface area of filtration media so you can wear it for longer periods of time."
NIOSH-approved filtering facepiece respirators will always have two straps and the word
NIOSH on the front of the respirator.

The company committed to "stamping

Nonwoven fabric is only one component in a face mask. SX Industries,
Stoughton, Mass., provides metal part
solutions to factories in the U.S. and
around the globe. In late March, the
company reached an agreement with
a Massachusetts manufacturer to help
produce masks being rushed to the state
of New York for health care workers.
around the clock with a goal to create
millions of Metal Nose Stays that will be
sewed into custom PPE masks," owner
Lindsay Fink said. "It took us 24 hours
from the initial call to go from concept,
approval and production."

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Specialty Fabrics Review May 2020

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