Interesting article in my Clay Times magazine titled "Hospitals, HEPAs, and Health." The article is primarily about "Studio Health & Safety" each month but due to a mix-up in the previous edition expanded into hospital health and facemasks in this particular issue (March/April 2006).
The previous month the author, Monona Rossol, had covered the need for potters to protect themselves from clay and glaze particles when working in a studio by wearing the appropriate facemask. Unbeknownst to the author, the magazine used a photo of a woman wearing the typical hospital facemask (she calls it the old "Ben Casey" mask).
Unfortunately, it turns out that the facemask is worthless and she notes that people in her field know they can only filter out "crumbs, flies and boulders." I probably wouldn't have continued reading the article if not for that phrase. It caught my attention as I would have thought hospitals with all the associated health risks and germs floating around would have tighter regulations than other work environments.
Not so. Per the article, when OSHA rules were expanded, the hospitals opted not to follow the rules saying it was too costly. They wanted their own rules. Rossol notes that since the 1970s hospitals "have maintained that they were exempt from many of the Occupational Safety & health Administration (OSHA) respiratory protection rules."
It wasn't until about two years ago that the hospitals were forced to apply the same standards everyone else has to follow. However, in each of the last two years Congress has passed bills "prohibiting OSHA from fining hospitals for failing to meet the respiratory protection requirements."
It may be simply old-wives-tales and hearsay, but I'm sure everyone reading this has heard that the biggest problem with going in the hospital for surgery or another illness is that you have a high chance of catching something else.
I will be checking into the practices of our local hospitals to find out what standards they adhere to when it comes to face masks. I was already concerned about what I might catch from others in the hospital and the much-talked-about problem with staph infections, etc. in the event I ever had to seek treatment. If the people who are ministering medically to me are breathing in the germs of others, they could easily be expelling them into MY space. If they have an illness and they are not wearing a proper mask, that little piece of cloth isn't going to help either of us.
As Rossol notes when closing her article, "if your doctor, nurse, dentist, dental technician, or other health professional puts on a mask in the course of your treatment, take a look at it. If it has a single strap or is of loose cloth, be aware that neither of you is well-protected from passing viruses or bacteria." Yuk.