Our vocabulary has been filled with new words we weren’t familiar with before. We’ve been using face masks every day for the last several months, and now we’ve heard the term N95 masks more than we’ve ever had in our lifetimes. This disposable face mask has been scarce around the world and in the United States, along with other medical supplies needed for the pandemic.
By now, most of us know 3M is the best and most popular brand for medical personal protective equipment (PPE), and especially N95 masks. They have a lot of models, but there are some differences between them. In this article, we’ll talk about 3M N95 masks, and we’ll focus on their 3M 8200 and 3M 8100 models.
N95 masks: a quick explanation
To understand the similarities and differences between the two models, it’s important to understand what an N95 mask is first. The term N95 comes from a classification of respirators established by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). This is the institution in the USA in charge of regulating respirators. Every country has a system to rate respirators to make sure they meet the required standards to protect in work environments.
NIOSH is a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and therefore is a federal agency. This institution has the responsibility to prevent work-related or occupational illnesses or injuries. To achieve this, they regulate respirators intended to be used as PPE in work settings where respiratory hazards are present. These are particles that can lead to very serious respiratory diseases, like lung cancer.
This institution also has a classification for respirators. According to their rating system, respirators are classified taking into consideration their resistance to oil and their minimum particulate filtration efficacy. The resistance to oil is indicated by the letter N, for not resistant, R for resistant, and P for oil-proof. The filtration efficacy is indicated by a number, which is the percentage of airborne particles in the air the respirator is capable of filtering. In this classification, it can be 95, 99, or 100%.
So, according to this, N95 masks are those NIOSH approved to meet the criteria for N95 respirators. This means they can filter out 95% or less non-oil based particles that are also airborne, which means they have a diameter of 0.3 micrometers. Particles with such characteristics include dust, coal smoke, and bioaerosols, including the flu virus, and the tuberculosis bacteria.
For all these reasons, N95 masks have become the best resource for virus protection. They have more antiviral properties than regular surgical face masks or reusable cloth masks, and that’s why they’re being prioritized to be used by healthcare workers and first responders. The CDC urges the general public, which is at significantly lower risk of infection from COVID-19, to use reusable face masks.
When a manufacturer produces a respirator intended to be an N95 mask, NIOSH is the only institution that can test it out and say it meets the criteria for an N95 respirator. Therefore, every N95 mask needs to be approved by NIOSH to prove it legitimately does what an N95 mask does, otherwise, the mask isn’t safe to anyone who uses it.
To be used as medical gear, N95 masks need additional approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But, with the COVID-19 pandemic being an emergency, a lot of N95 mask models that weren’t previously cleared by the FDA have been granted with an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).
3M 8200 and 3M 8100 comparison
As we mentioned, all N95 masks have the same qualities in terms of oil resistance and filtration efficacy. However, different models can vary in terms of features or the filter media used. 3M, the most popular N95 mask manufacturer right now, has a lot of N95 mask models. Today, we’d like to focus on the 3M 8200 and 3M 8100 models, their similarities and differences.
Both of these 3M N95 masks are unvalved NIOSH approved face masks, but without FDA approval. Both are indicated by 3M to be used for personal safety. Both models are made with electrostatic filter material that increases breathability and comfort. They both have a shelf life of 5 years.
The main difference between the two is the recommended application. For the 3M 8100 model, they recommend using it for general manufacturing, mining, oil and gas, and transportation. For 3M 8200 respirators, 3M recommends their use for food processing and safety, as well as the other uses indicated in the 3M 8100.
Another difference between the two comes in the way the straps are attached to the respirator. 3M 8200 masks have welded headbands, while 3M 8100 masks have stapled headbands. The latter are also individually wrapped, while 3M 8200 masks are not.
Right now, it’s very important to stay protected with the best type of respirators. Online, you can buy a lot of different types of protective equipment you can find for sale. For example, 3M has many other N95 mask models, like the 3M 82100 and the 3M 8511. You can also find other products, like face shields and KN95 masks.
Remember that regular-sized items don’t protect kids, and they need special face masks in a smaller size. All of these items can be bought in bulk or wholesale, which is beneficial for hospitals and healthcare centers. Remember that it’s everyone’s responsibility to stay safe.