NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Not all masks provide equal protection.
Serial entrepreneur Jonathan Malveaux developed the Nano Air Mask at the outset of the pandemic as a way to bring a quality mask that blocks most viral particles to the general public. It is made using nanofiber technology.
"Whether you're using a gaiter or some other cloth material, these very microscopic-size particles will get through it," he explained.
Malveaux, whose mother and step-mother are nurses, realized the importance of masks in protecting oneself and others early in the pandemic even before public officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Protection advised Americans to wear masks to slow transmission.
"We just sprung into action. It was like survival mode," he told WCBS 880's Neil A. Carousso, recalling walking around the South Bronx neighborhood where he was raised wearing a mask before it became required by state law on public transportation and in establishments.
Florida Atlantic University researchers compared the Nano Air Mask with a cloth mask and summer face mask on mannequins in a visual cough simulation of how respiratory droplets would seep through a mask, potentially infecting those nearby with COVID-19. They found the Nano Air Mask best reduced how far droplets travel. Utah-based Nelson Labs performed an independent study and found it to be roughly 98 percent effective in filtering particles.
"The sort of issue that we all have to be focused on as well is leakage," said Malveaux of how viral particles could penetrate the sides of the mask.
He leads a small team that manufactures the Nano Air Mask in Long Beach, CA; they are ramping up production as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths soar nationwide. They are also working on a "pro version" for healthcare professionals similar to an N95 respirator, which is FDA-approved, featuring two straps that go around one's head to reduce "leakage."
"We're really constantly innovating to make sure that we are offering exactly what (our customers) want," Malveaux said. "The one thing that we won't compromise on is the quality."
He is perfecting the Na