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Facemasks vs PPE Hoods

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If lack of PPE for Primary Head Protection is not acknowledged, emergency responders and healthcare workers will again be devastated in the next disaster.

Facemasks are not reliable for respiratory protection; however, they are the best for containing a wearer's saliva droplets.  The problem with masks is leakage because faces vary in shape and nose-bridge height.  There are many gaps between a wearer's face and the edges of a flat facemask. Also, their elastic ear-loops are either too loose or too tight for proper fit. Masks often fall from the nose to cover only wearer's mouth or even hang under the chin protecting nothing.  Meanwhile, the elastic straps of the rigid dome-shaped masks have to be uncomfortably tight to seal at all. Even then, the mask moves and leaks when the wearer talks or sweats.

As a material scientist with over 20 years’ experience in developing protective equipment, I have seen no low-cost cure to this leakage problem. It is fair to conclude that workers cannot rely on disposable masks for respiratory protection. However, the convenience and usefulness of masks to contain saliva droplets are well recognized. They are useful in public places and in congested environments- meetings, concerts, conventions, stadiums, lines, buses, trains, airports etc. I am offering free prototypic samples of my Soft-stretch masks at our E-store.

The PPE Hoods are the critical component missing in conventional PPE: For effective primary head protection in workplaces, I have devoted my efforts in engineering the soft-stretch hoods made of latex-free elastic nonwoven fabrics which are converted from the same material for making surgical and N95 masks.  Treating a piece of woven textile for multiple functionalities is difficult and expensive, if not impossible. However, by bonding individually treated elastic nonwoven fabrics into a multi-layer structure, protective apparel can be economically made with various combinations of functionalities while maintaining softness and breathability. I have proved this concept by manufacturing a series of soft-stretch hoods (Dust Hoods, Spray hoods, UV Hoods, and BioSafety Hoods). In the product pipeline are Oil Repellant Hoods, Hi-Visibility Hoods, Camouflage Hoods, and Flame Retardant Hoods.

Overlooking primary head protection could be the result of a lack of proper products. “PPE Hoods” is not listed as a category or a product in current industrial safety supplies and federal or state procurement systems. I had to hawk sales by mailing hood sample to user companies and individual contractors.Over many years, I have accumulated over 2,000 repeat customers from more than 15 industries including companies in Belgium, Canada, China, Mexico, and UAE. In the recent Covid-19 pandemic, my Biosafety hoods have received great market awareness resulting in thousands of email inquiries and thousands of visits to our website. If the desire of “Making PPE in the US” is for real, I shall be very busy for many years to come.

The innovative advantage of my Soft-stretch hoods is “Comfort” which is defined by (1) soft form-fit to securely cover the entire head, face, and neck without restricting peripheral vision, head movement, and wearer’s mobility and (2) easy breathability to keep heads cool for extended wear.

On the contrary, the shortcomings of alternative head coverings are the following:

  • A.Because the materials were stiff, the head coverings (such as nonwoven and Tyvek hoods) had to be made baggy to cover different head sizes. Not only did that create too much gapping to provide an effective barrier, they also did not fit well even when incorporated with elastic components.
  • B.Coverall hoods are a common alternative; however, they quickly tire the wearer because of restricting head movement and mobility. They have been prohibited in confined spaces and on high structures. CDC guidelines also recommended that healthcare workers wear coveralls without an incorporated hood.
  • C.PAPR hoods are excellent for covering the entire head; however, PAPR systems are expensive and they are inconvenient/cumbersome for many routine jobs.Further, the decontamination after each use is an additional tedious job.Consequently, workers are left (or elect) to expose their heads and faces in infection-risk environments or to harmful substances during their daily jobs.

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