Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, surgical mask production has skyrocketed on a glocal scale. As one of the most important and necessary precautions for protecting against the spread and contraction of COVID-19, face masks have been in serious demand.
According to the US Department of Defense, mask production (namely the n95 respirator mask) is expected to exceed one billion in 2021. The largest manufacturer of n95 masks, 3M, produced more than 2 billion masks globally in 2020 alone.
To say that’s a lot of masks is an understatement.
In the past, we’ve talked about the importance of face masks and have addressed what kind of face mask you should be wearing during the pandemic.
Also, we’ve discussed the kind of face masks that are most effective and specifically what they protect against.
This begs the question: are there any other reasons besides health and medical reasons to wear a face mask?
Mask Niches: Where Else Are Face Masks For?
We love how creative cosplayers can get– Sith Lords who failed to get the high ground, and Phantom of the Opera– but for the sake of this blog, we’re going to leave out any leisure-related material.
With that established, the answer to this question is yes; protection for health is the main reason to wear a face mask.
Different types of masks are made for different types of protection. We’ll dig into the other protection purposes (difference niches) for face masks.
Wildfire Smoke and Dust
Wildfire season is no joke. And due to rising temperatures and drier climates, we’ve seen an increase in wildfires over the past couple of years.
California wildfire season is from July to November. Although this is the normal time for wildfires, the Western United States has seen more blazing fires throughout the year due to dry climate change.
Australian wildfire season is from June to April, which is the majority of the year.
Wood smoke is dangerous to our health because it irritates the lungs which can cause inflammation and affect our immune system. In fact, it can make us more prone to lung infections and increase our vulnerability to respiratory viruses like COVID-19.
Using face masks during wildfires to protect against wood smoke is important to preserve your lungs and keep your immune system strong.
Masks have been used in sports since forever. How, do you ask?
We’ve seen this with famous basketball players like Lebron James, Alonzo Mourning, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook to name a few. These players wore masks as a result of a facial injury or to prevent one from happening.
American football players wear masks too. We’re not talking about the helmet, but the visor and metal mesh that protects their face.
Arguably the best running back of his time, LaDainian Tomlinson, wore a face mask. The darkest visor left any sort of defense clueless because they couldn't see his eyes and therefore his routes. Sneaky stuff!
Also, oxygen training masks are used to simulate higher altitude training for players.
Who knew athletes loved masks so much?
Fields of Work
In addition to these uses, masks are used often as protective equipment in professional fields of work.
For example, masks are used by workers for construction safety. They wear face masks to filter out tiny harmful particles such as dust, debris, or other chemicals.
Chemists also utilize face masks to protect them from toxic chemicals. Especially chemists that deal with hazardous waste to help identify chemical pollutants in the air and water, it’s critical to their health that they are protected.
Obviously, the use of a mask in scuba diving serves a different type of purpose, but it is also important in providing air space and for seeing clearly while underwater.
Members of the military have been using gas masks since WWI to protect themselves from biological warfare such as mustard gas. If they didn’t have these masks, people would have suffered from serious respiratory problems or died.
There are many other uses for face masks, but you get the idea.
The takeaway here is: masks are meant to protect and preserve our health. As we’ve discussed, there are many different types of masks for different purposes and they all exist for a reason.
We can speculate that masks will always be important, and are not just a passing phase of life or a specific response to the coronavirus.