> We have received several questions from labs about the risk of solvent vapors being ‰??trapped‰?? in cloth face masks.
Personally, I am more concerned about masks becoming contaminated by a splash of a solvent or other chemical than the masks impacting fugitive vapors. A spill onto a mask could create a longer exposure to the chemical than a maskless situation, particularly if the wearer is unaware of the splash.
One reason this scenario occurs to me is an experience I had at another school when a Teaching Assistant in a teaching biolab called me because she had spilled a gallon of Coomassie Blue onto her pants. She wanted me to clean up the spill because she was busy working with the students. When I arrived 30 minutes later, she was still wearing the contaminated pants and her skin was turning red from the continued exposure to the acetic acid / alcohol mixture. She only took the pants off after I provided her with tyvek coveralls to wear. She insisted on staying in the classroom until the class was over.
And when I was a lab tech working with inorganic acids, a line of holes developed in my pants at bench height; this was not an uncommon experience in our group.
The point is that cloth face masks are more likely to retain liquids than vapors in a problematic way.
Ralph Stuart, CIH, CCHO
Environmental Safety Manager
Keene State College
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