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Make the switch to reusing KN95 masks

Reusable cloth masks have gotten us all through nearly two years of this global pandemic, but at the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many people switched to surgical masks in late 2021, protecting their health but taking a large toll on the environment. How can we balance implementing the advice of the CDC into our lives, whilst taking care of our planet? We believe that reusing KN95 masks is the most beneficial way to accomplish this.

Research shows that surgical masks are much more effective in blocking viruses from spreading from person to person. However, the constant use of disposable masks throughout the Covid-19 pandemic has caused and will continue to cause major problems for the environment. 

In the face of the newest variant of Covid, Omicron, which is almost twice as contagious as the Delta variant, experts have encouraged the public to switch to surgical masks. In a recent August study by researchers from Yale and Stanford universities, these masks were shown to be more effective at stopping the spread of Omicron. While cloth masks reduce the spread of the virus by a mere 35%, KN95 masks remain 95% effective at filtering out virus particles, says Yang Wang, an assistant professor at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. Although the CDC recommends surgical and KN95 masks, they still uphold that well-fitting cloth masks are effective at stopping the spread of the Covid virus.

Although protection from infection is a huge concern, we cannot disregard the toll that disposable masks are taking on the environment. How many times have you been walking outside and seen a surgical mask lying on the ground? A July study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has predicted that the Covid-19 pandemic will generate up to 7,200 tons of medical waste daily, and most of this waste is due to disposable masks. The greatest strength of cloth masks is that they’re durable. Unlike disposable masks, which must be thrown away as soon as they become dirty, cloth masks can be cleaned and worn over and over again. This means that they are better for the environment, as they create significantly less waste. 

How can we prevent this increase in waste due to disposable masks, while keeping ourselves, and others, safe? One way to stay climate-conscious, and keep ourselves safe, is to wear a cloth mask with multiple layers. This option is best when meeting with only a few people.

However, if you know that you’re going to be in a crowded place such as airplanes or concerts, surgical masks are a safer option. KN95s are the best option. These masks can be worn a few times before needing to be thrown away, unlike surgical masks which need to be changed regularly. Switching to KN95 masks is an easy way to stay protected and reduce the negative impact that surgical masks have on the environment. 

It can be difficult to balance personal health and environmental consciousness. In the end, this is an issue that can be compromised through attentive effort.

Image source: Amazon.com.

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