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On the N95 mask, a possible alternative, and why face masks won't work against volcanic ash

The demand for N95 masks has gone up after the Taal Volcano erupted on Sunday, bringing ash fall to Batangas and affecting cities in the National Capital Region (NCR).

According to National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), N95 mask "filters at least 95 percent of airborne particles, but it is not resistant to oil."

The US Food and Drug Administration said the mask gives a "very close facial fit" and it is "very efficient" against airborne particles.

But it adds that N95 masks "are not designed for children or people with facial hair" since it won't provide them full protection "because a proper fit cannot be achieved" on them.

On Center for Disease Control and Protection's (CDC) website, it said that "N95 can function within their design specifications for 8 hours of continuous or intermittent use."

"There is no way of determining the maximum possible number of safe reuses of the N95 mask," CDC added.

"It is limited by considerations of hygiene, damage, and breathing resistance," it said.

On NIOSH's website, it is said the service life of the mask is "is limited by considerations of hygiene, damage, and breathing resistance."

"All filters should be replaced whenever they are damaged, soiled, or causing noticeably increased breathing resistance," they added.

While the EOD of the Department of Health (DOH) is verifying their information, it echoed NIOSH when it told GMA News Online that the N95 masks are reusable for up to 8 hours of continuous use and are okay for "intermittent use as long as its filters are not comprised."

Meanwhile, a 3M representative has a good and practical measure on what a compromised filter is: "Once you experience some difficulty breathing, this means the filters are full and you need to change the filter/mask na."

On Monday morning, even stores in Bambang, a known destination for medical supplies and equipment, have ran out of supplies, with buyers reporting some Bambang stores to sell N95 masks at P200 apiece.      

Why face masks won't protect you from volcanic ash like N95

The US FDA said normal face masks are only effective in "blocking splashes and large-particle droplets."

US FDA said it does not provide "complete protection small particles in the air  because of the loose fit between the surface of the face mask and your face."

Can't find N95 anymore? Here's a good alternative

According to an advisory released by The Department of Health, a damp towel is a good alternative to be used for protection against volcanic ash. Cover your nose and mouth with a damp towel should you find yourself outdoors during an ashfall.

— LA, GMA News