Since the pandemic began, N95 masks have been the center of attention among all the reusable and disposable face masks on the market, including KN95 masks and surgical masks as well. This is due to their great performance for protection against the coronavirus, which has increased their demand in the healthcare field.
Hospitals have had to buy these masks in bulk and wholesale as a result of this public health emergency, but have been struggling to find them for sale in both physical and online stores. However, two brands in particular have been the most available during this situation: 3M and Honeywell. But, which one of them is the most widely available? Let’s analyze this.
N95 masks have been widely discussed during the pandemic because of their status as the best face mask for virus protection. Their filtering properties include antiviral protection that face masks regularly used in the healthcare field, like surgical masks, don’t offer. For this reason, they have become an incredibly necessary item in these settings, where the exposure to the virus is so high and close, workers need the highest form of protection they can get.
N95 masks are also sometimes called N95 respirators because they qualify as such. A respirator is a mask or mask-like device that filters out particles in the air that are considered harmful to human health. By filtering them out, the wearer doesn’t inhale them, and this is useful for the protection of workers exposed to respiratory hazards.
The name N95 means that this respirator is not resistant to oil, as indicated by the ‘N’, and therefore can’t filter out particles that contain oil. The name also indicates a 95% filtration rate for airborne particles as long as they don’t contain oil. This is established by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in the USA in their naming system for respirators.
Some of the particles N95 masks can filter out include dust, smoke, metals, and bioaerosols like bacteria and viruses, including the coronavirus and the flu virus. However, there are many more particles that meet the characteristics of not containing oil and being airborne, and these are quite diverse, giving N95 masks multiple uses in different industries.
Since NIOSH establishes the criteria for N95 masks, all respirators manufactured with the intention to be distributed and marketed as ‘N95-rated’ must be sent to the institution for evaluation and testing. This is to make sure workers who need the level of protection N95 masks offer are receiving masks that perform effectively as such.
3M during the pandemic
3M has been highly involved in the production of N95 masks since the pandemic began. Additionally, they have been producing other types of medical equipment as well, including surgical masks and face shields. However, their main focus has been to increase the production of N95 masks, which have been the most demanded product in the healthcare field.
Known as a reliable source for high quality safety gear, as an American company, their main goal was to provide N95 respirators for frontline workers inside the United States. Since January of last year, they have tripled their production of this valuable face mask to meet the increasing demand for this product. They also reached the goal of producing 2 billion N95 masks by the end of last year globally, with the focus being on the domestic production and the importation of N95 masks into the USA.
Their most popular models include the 3M 8210 and the 3M 8511 for industrial use, and the 3M 1860, which is a surgical N95 mask used in the healthcare field with approval from the FDA.
Besides their work on the increase of N95 mask production, they have also been working with certain organizations to help them solve the most prominent problems that have come from the pandemic, working with universities and researchers and helping them in what they have needed.
Honeywell during the pandemic
Another big American company that has been an important source for N95 respirators is Honeywell. Founded over a century ago, this company was originally known for producing heating systems, with their thermostats being their most recognizable product. But, over the years they have expanded to many more products, including those related to work safety.
They’re 3M’s main competitor when it comes to the production of N95 masks in the USA, and have also been a reliable source for these masks. In their quest to help frontline workers across the country who were struggling to obtain the necessary masks for their protection, Honeywell stood out as an important manufacturer in the USA.
Besides increasing their regular production of N95 masks, they also created a new production line located in Smithfield, Rhode Island. The production line has been solely dedicated to the production of N95 masks with the goal of supplying the national emergency stockpile, and all the masks are directly shipped to the US Department of Health and Human Services. This production line alone created 500 new jobs.
Which is more available?
Although both companies made incredible efforts to increase their production, 3M is the American company that produced the most N95 masks during the pandemic. This would lead us to believe 3M N95 masks would be the most widely available between the two. But, there’s no information about this question available anywhere.
Due to the shortages being experiences in the USA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges the general public to leave medical-grade masks like the N95 mask to frontline workers. Reusable cloth masks are a great option that can also be worn by kids over the age of 2.