General, Research, Technology

The consequences of using protective masks - what you need to know?

Medical workers wear surgical masks andThere is strong evidence that this limits the spread of respiratory viral infections in hospitals. However, there is no clear evidence that surgical masks protect ordinary people from becoming infected or transmitting this kind of infection. Most likely, the reason is their misuse. As for the fabric masks worn by a huge number of people, that picture looks even darker. In this article, you will learn about the four potential consequences of using protective masks that you should watch out for.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for protective masks has been regularly raised.


  • 1 Facial masks - the best protection against infection?
  • 2 Big Four
    • 2.1 Peltsman effect
    • 2.2 Proper use of masks
    • 2.3 Masks - an additional source of infection
    • 2.4 Environmental impact

Are face masks the best protection against infection?

Surgical masks consist of several layersnon-woven plastic and can effectively filter very small particles, for example, the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Masks typically contain an external waterproof layer and an internal absorbent layer. Although masks made from scarves, T-shirts or other fabrics cannot provide the same level of protection and durability as surgical masks, they can block some large droplets and particles exhaled by the wearer, thereby protecting others from viral exposure.

It is important to understand that the ability of masks to filterdrops depends on their design. So, multilayer fabric masks are better filtered, but it is more difficult to breathe through them. In more detail about which masks protect against coronavirus better than others, I told in this article. Nevertheless, the question is not so much whether fabric masks provide the same good protection as surgical masks (and this is not so), but whether there are serious unintended consequences of recommendations for their widespread use.

And how do you go out?

The big four

As the authors of the article for The Conversation write, you need to know about four potential consequences that, if not mitigated, could worsen the situation. Forewarned is forearmed.

Peltsman effect

The Peltsman effect suggests that the introduction of onesafety measures, such as car seat belts, can lead to other risky behaviors, such as speeding. Cognitive distortion, in which too many protective safety rules increase the risk of accidents due to a false sense of invulnerability, is named after the professor at the University of Chicago, Samuel Peltzman.

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In the context of COVID-19, it has been proven thatthe use of a mask allows people to feel more secure and, therefore, to minimize other effective protective forms of behavior - social distance and regular hand washing. Although there is no clear evidence that this happens during a pandemic, several studies conducted before the outbreak of a fatal infection showed that people actually wash their hands worse when they wear a mask.

Proper use of masks

So that face masks effectively protect you frominfections, they must be used correctly, especially when in contact with other people. Most of the studies carried out so far - none of which were conducted during the current pandemic - did not explicitly consider people's attitudes towards the use of masks. However, it is important to note that the more severe the disease progressed and the more susceptible people were to it, the greater the likelihood that they could protect themselves during a pandemic. Given the large number of global infections and deaths around the world, people may show higher than usual levels of commitment to wearing masks during a pandemic.

It is interesting: Doing sports in a mask is hazardous to health.

Masks are an additional source of infection

In addition to protecting against the entry of viral particles intothe body, masks can act as alternative transmission routes for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. To avoid this, they must be correctly worn and removed. It is also important to remember that people touch their face on average 15-23 times per hour - for example, a mask that does not sit well on the face makes people touch their eyes, nose and mouth even more. As the authors of the article write, after touching the mask, there is a risk of the virus getting on your hands, and from them to other surfaces, such as door handles, railings or tables.

If you are not a medical professional, an ordinary fabric mask is fine for you.

Environmental impact

A fourth, equally important cause of concernResearchers are the results of a study by British scientists, according to which if the entire population of the UK begins to use disposable masks daily, this will cause 42,000 tons of potentially contaminated and non-recyclable plastic waste per year. Needless to say, the UK is far from the most populous country in the world. In addition, most people today notice a huge number of used and improperly disposed masks in public places, which is an environmental and infectious hazard. Therefore, it is preferable to use fabric rather than disposable masks.

More on the topic: What fabrics are best to sew a face mask from?

Recall that national and international bodiesHealth recommends the use of protective masks in places where it is difficult to maintain a social distance, for example in public transport. Well, we urge the readers of to wash their hands thoroughly, maintain a social distance, not touch their faces, use fabric masks for their faces, and properly dispose of them after use. Read how to do it right here.