Specialty Fabrics Review May 2020 - 56

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"OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health
Administration] mandates that if workers (such
as in health care) have to use personal protective
equipment, and specifically respirators, they
have to be trained on why they have to use one,
how it works and what the limitations are,"
says Eric Esswein, CEO of Emeritus Safety and
Health LLC, Conifer, Colo.
Workers who are required to wear
respirators for work must also be fit-tested
to ensure that when they put on the respirator,
it provides the protection it is designed for,
he adds.
"Workers are much more likely to have
a greater understanding of all this because
of the training, but that's not true for the
general public," Esswein says. "If the general
public is concerned about exposure-whether
it's just noninfectious dust or traveling
somewhere in the time of an infectious
disease outbreak that may be transmitted
through the air-they're likely not going to

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know how to correctly select and use any
type of actual respiratory protection. If they
are wearing a surgical mask (or what's being
referred to as "social masks"), they may not
understand these do not protect wearers
from exposure to infectious aerosols. They
limit infectious aerosols expelled when they
cough or sneeze, but neither is respiratory
protection for the wearer."
Before the global spread of COVID-19,
the general public may have looked at a
surgical mask-one that loops over the ears
and covers the mouth and in some cases
the nose-and believed that it provided the
same level of protection as a respirator. Media
coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak offered
some education, but that bit of knowledge
led to other problems: the hoarding of N95
respirators, price gouging and counterfeit
products. In late February, the U.S. surgeon
general urged the public to stop buying masks
so that health-care workers would have an
available supply, and online retailers such as
Amazon cracked down on sellers violating fair
pricing policies. By March, the CDC loosened
recommendations related to specialized masks
because of the shortage, declaring that until
the supply of N95 respirators was restored,
looser fitting surgical masks "are an acceptable
alternative." In early April, the CDC revised
its recommendations regarding masks worn
by the general public during the COVID-19
outbreak, calling for people to wear cloth
masks fashioned from household products
while reserving respirators and surgical masks
for medical personnel.
Lack of education causes people to wear
the wrong kind of protection, but availability
of approved masks plays a role. In many
cases, people just want to do something to
feel protected.
"They're really just afraid of breathing
in a virus that's going to cause problems
for them," says Nelson. "It's fear. But in all
my training, and according to the technical
knowledge, unless you're wearing the
appropriate product, and it is fit to your face,
and you're wearing it the appropriate way for
the appropriate length of time, it may not
give you the protection you want or need.
"A lot of people are making a lot of money
selling things that are not very effective,"
he adds.

56 REVIEW MAY 2020

0520RV_p49-57.indd 56

4/18/20 10:59 PM


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Specialty Fabrics Review May 2020

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Specialty Fabrics Review May 2020 - 1
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