Ongoing efforts to control the Covid-19 pandemic include wearing face masks. Although any kind of mask somewhat reduces transmission of coronavirus, recent developments in the spread of the Omicron variant have led many epidemiologists to recommend that everyone wear N-95 or KN-95 disposable masks because they seal against the face better than disposable surgical masks. (Here is current CDC guidance on masks.)

Both types of disposable masks are made of “non-woven polypropylene,” a form of PLASTIC.  Although it is possible to set aside a disposable mask and wear it again later, in general they are intended as a single-use product.  Hundreds of millions of people each discarding a polypropylene mask each day are adding enormous amounts of plastic garbage to our planet.  Is there a better way?

Several PASUP members have been wearing Breathe99 sustainable respirators throughout the pandemic and had good experiences of comfort and safety.  PASUP as an organization does not endorse this product, but we want to bring it to everyone’s attention as a way to protect public health while making less trash!

Breathe99 masks filter and trap more than 99% of viral and bacterial particles–more effective than the 95% filtration of an N-95 or KN-95.  However, tests show them to be 40% more breathable than standard respirators, so you’ll still feel you’re getting plenty of oxygen.

The replaceable filters used in the Breathe99 are made of non-woven polypropylene, the same material as disposable masks.  Because the filters are held in a durable, washable mask, each filter can be used for 24 hours of actual wearing time and may last up to a month (if you are able to stay home most of the time).  The total amount of plastic in one filter set is less than in one disposable mask, without the elastic loops that harm wildlifeAlthough Breathe99 does not eliminate plastic garbage from your masking routine, it reduces the amount of garbage while providing excellent protection to both the mask wearer and the people nearby.

In the Pittsburgh area, Breathe99 masks are sold–at less than the online retail price!–by a PASUP member via her business Our Children Our Earth.