I never thought my own struggles with occupational asthma or MacGyvering back-country masks for wildfire smoke on the PCT (2014) and CDT (2018) would come in handy in a global health crisis, but here we are…
I am putting to good use a decade of research and background into respiratory health, the science of particle sizes, models of particle dispersal patterns, depth of penetration into the lungs, and a very personal relationship with N95s to work with a team of volunteers on the MakerMask project.
Early in March (right after my last post), I started making and fit-testing prototypes for science-driven mask designs. On March 17th, I mailed four prototypes to @ATOR Labs in Florida for preliminary lab validation. Today, MakerMask has two patterns on our website – makermask.org — and a third design in the pipeline.
Four key lessons:
- Nonwoven polypropylene (NWPP) provides better droplet protection than cotton, which is especially relevant in a droplet-transmitted pandemic. NWPP is the material of choice for commercial medical-grade masks. Water-resistant NWPP outer layers block the droplets that can carry viruses from coughs and sneezes, while allowing for vital airflow. Reusable grocery bags are an accessible source of NWPP.
- Certified N95 masks with valid fit tests are a critical resource for our front line communities, and the supply chain for those materials is stretched thin. Single layer NWPP covers can extend the lifetime of our limited stocks of commercial-grade masks.
- Latex-free designs are important, especially in clinical settings. Cloth ties or bias tape have advantages over elastic straps b/c they don’t contain latex allergens and can be sterilized without heat damage. Look for designs that can be home-sterilized by boiling before community use or be sterilized in autoclaves for larger scale use.
- This impacts all of our communities; we all can help; and I need your help. In addition to sewists, MakerMask is seeking volunteer team members to help with mask testing, communications, project management, and IT. I also need help from fellow researchers, clinicians, and friends who can use these masks and help get the word out about the importance of science-driven, clinically relevant designs. Check out https://makermask.org/contribute/ if you can offer help!
Thank you and stay safe!
Links with MakerMask in the News: