Wearing a mask in public is common practice and mandatory in some parts of the world amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Not all masks, however, are adequate in protecting the wearer and those around them. Masks with valves are being banned on certain airlines and in various cities.
Airlines such as Delta, United Airlines and JetBlue have banned masks with a valve, according to The Guardian.
In a statement Delta Air Lines said: “Any mask with an exhaust valve is not approved as an acceptable face mask for customers travelling on any Delta operated flight.”
Researchers are constantly learning more about how COVID-19 spreads. This in turn brings to light the adequacy of protection that different masks have.
Masks with valves essentially allow the wearer to breathe easier. When you inhale, the valve is closed but when you exhale, the valve opens. This allows the exhalation to leave unfiltered.
This means that if the wearer is COVID-19 positive, they can easily spread the virus to other people.
Speaking to USA Today, Kai Singbartl, a medical doctor who is the chair for infection prevention and control at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, said: “It defeats the purpose. They are unfiltered, those valves are the path of least resistance so to speak, it’s easier to exhale and get rid of the heat and moisture.” In this process though, viral droplets can be easily transmitted.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend wearing a mask with a valve as an item of personal protective equipment (PPE).
In a statement the CDC said: “The purpose of masks is to keep respiratory droplets from reaching others to aid with source control. Masks with one-way valves or vents allow exhaled air to be expelled out through holes in the material. This can allow exhaled respiratory droplets to reach others and potentially spread the COVID-19 virus. Therefore, CDC does not recommend using masks or if they have an exhalation valve or vent.”