The Benefits of Wearing a Hemp Mask During a Pandemic

Matt Weeks August 24, 2020 0 comments

Could the benefits of cannabis extend to a hemp mask?

Wearing face masks has been urged by the health departments of the U.S. and Canada, as well as many other countries, and many urban centers have mandated their use. But, not all masks are created equal. Researchers are discovering that different styles and materials play a large role in efficacy. Hemp, with its natural germ-fighting abilities and rugged durability, may offer superior protection against infection.

Design Flaws

The majority of DIY and mass-produced face masks are made from cotton. It’s inexpensive, easy to find, and has been shown to provide some benefits against virus transmission.

But is it really the best?

A study [1]Konda, Abhietja, et al. (2020). Aerosol filtration efficiency of common fabrics used in respiratory cloth masks. ACS Nano: 14(5) 6339-6347. published in the journal American Chemical Society Nano (2020) found that multiple layers of fabric significantly reduced incoming and outgoing particles.

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A cotton mask made of a single piece of low-thread-count material, such as 80 threads per inch — the most common kind used in DIY masks— had fairly abysmal ratings for filtration efficiency. In ideal circumstances, an 80 TPI cotton mask has an efficiency between five and fifty-five percent. And that’s only if it’s worn correctly, without gaps.

The More Threads, the Better

Comparatively, high-quality cotton material of six hundred TPI had a filtration efficiency rating of more than ninety percent.

Even better than a single sheet of high-thread-count cotton, however, were multiple sheets of 120 TPI cotton. The layering of two cotton swaths into a quilted fabric increased the quality of filtration to greater than ninety percent.

The researchers did not specifically investigate the effectiveness of a hemp mask; however, they note that all organic materials studied — including silk and flannel — performed similarly. These all benefitted from higher thread-count construction and layered design.

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Why Try a Hemp Mask?

A hemp mask offers a lot of potential.

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First, hemp works. It’s a strong, breathable fabric that can block droplets from a wearer’s breath from entering common airspace.

Second, hemp is durable. It’s also sturdier than cotton. One problem with face masks is the need to regularly launder them. After all, a mask that’s carrying around a virus on the outside isn’t much good to anyone. Because of its durability, a hemp mask can be washed again and again — and it only gets softer each time.

Hemp also has natural antimicrobial properties. These don’t protect against viruses, but it does prevent other problems, such as mildew, mold, and odor that can sour a mask.

Finally, buying a hemp mask is significantly better for the environment than many other fabrics — especially synthetic materials like rayon and chiffon. In fact, synthetic masks may be worse than no mask at all. Some synthetic materials break respiratory particles into smaller bits, making them more transmissible on the other side.

More Than the Make of a Mask Matters

A hemp mask may be preferable for all the stated reasons, but certain styles of masks make for subpar protection no matter the material.

Research published in the journal Physics of Fluids (2020) found that bandana masks were virtually ineffective at protecting the wearer and those nearby from inhaling viral particles. A better solution is the standard kind of face mask that emulates the kind surgeons wear. This helps to prevents the leaks that make bandanas so useless.[2]Verma, Siddharta et al. (2020). Visualizing the effectiveness of face masks in obstructing respiratory jets. Physics of Fluids: 32, 061708.

Even so, many commercially available masks limit droplets to between two and inches from the wearer’s face when coughs or sneezes occur. Hence the need to maintain social distances even while donning a face covering.

Fighting the Twin Spreads: Covid-19 and Disinformation

Despite the best advice from infectious disease scientists and public health experts, masks have regrettably become a political issue in America. And with politicization comes disinformation.

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Masks provide only minimal protection to the wearer. Instead, these help protect everyone else from any viral droplets exhaled by the mask wearer. Wearing a mask sends two signals. The first is that of complying with the best scientific evidence — something cannabis enthusiasts have been doing for years — and the second is a signal of kindness. Wearing a mask is a sign to others that you value them.

Several commercial businesses and Etsy makers are already selling hemp masks. If the pandemic continues — and it shows little sign of slowing down in the U.S.A. — masks will become a higher priority as people attempt to return to normalcy.

As long as masks are part of daily life, it pays to have the best. The right kind of mask not only makes financial sense through reusability, but also does its part to keep people safe.


Author avatar

Matt Weeks

A writer living and working in Athens, GA, Matt's work has appeared in various newspapers, books, magazines and online publications over the last 15 years. When he's not writing, he hosts bar trivia, plays in local bands, and makes a mean guacamole. He holds an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master's degree in organizational theory. His favorite movie is "Fletch."