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Ohio PPE company offers advice on testing face masks

The effectiveness of masks varies based on the material.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Neo PPE, based in Columbus, was founded during the start of the pandemic, when frontline medical workers were struggling to protect themselves with personal protective equipment, and price gouging for masks ran rampant.

Debbie Neo started the business, with the knowledge learned from her father’s PPE and cleaning room company in Asia almost 30 years ago. A portion of the business was mask and respirators.

Neo says the effectiveness of masks varies.

“When it comes to masks, the thing to consider about protection is the material and the fit,” said Neo. “[A] cloth mask is better than no mask at all. So, if you are wearing a cloth mask and you prefer that and it’s one layer, it’s probably better to put one or two on there. Surgical masks are three-layers in one, so you don’t have to worry about that.”

Cloth masks are still a good form of protection if it’s made the right way. Neo suggests choosing on made a cotton t-shirt material, with two or more layers. This could be sufficient depending on your risk level, according to Neo PPE.

But there are times to better protect yourself, with a surgical mask, such as densely populated areas or a situation with limited social distancing.

“Use a surgical mask if you are going to a place like a grocery store, nursing homes, hospitals, visiting relatives that are high risk, schools, restaurants, or salons,” said Neo.

A surgical mask is only as good as the fit it provides. Adding a cloth mask over a surgical mask could provide a better fit, Neo says.

There are ways to check on the quality of the material of a mask, and to see if it’s counterfeit. You can do a candle test, by trying to blow out a lit candle with a surgical mask on. You can also put a few droplets on water on it to see if any seep through. If either test fails, do not use that mask.

Neo urges people to listen to researchers and scientists and to wear a face-covering when around other people.