3M is one of the most reliable sources for personal protective equipment (PPE) in any work field around the world and inside the United States. With the COVID-19 pandemic, medical PPE has been one of the focuses, since their demand has significantly increased as a result of this public health emergency. We’ll discuss their role in the pandemic, particularly when it comes to N95 masks, considered the best ones for virus protection at the moment, and whether or not they’re reliable.
A bit of history on 3M and their work during the pandemic
During this year, this American company has been one of the centers of attention since they’re known for producing high-quality medical PPE, many of which are crucial for the protection of healthcare workers from COVID-19. 3M, however, is well-known for producing and distributing PPE in many different work industries, even though they’ve been getting attention for their medical supplies.
In particular, their role as a source for N95 masks, also known as N95 respirators, has been prominent inside the United States and the rest of the world, an item that is particularly valuable right now for healthcare settings. The company is based in Maplewood, Minnesota, and has production factories across the globe.
Since the pandemic began, they’ve made incredible efforts to meet the gigantic demand for N95 masks as a result of the situation. One of their milestones has been to double their production of N95 masks. Now, their next milestone is to reach the goal of producing 2 billion N95 respirators by the end of the year around the world.
Out of them, about 95 million have been destined to supply the United States. This is a part of their efforts to prioritize the supply in the USA, by increasing the national production and importation above the exportation of the product. Their two most popular models of 3M N95 masks are the 3M 8210 and the 3M 8511.
3M N95 masks
3M is probably one of the most reliable sources of PPE in any industry not only inside the country, but all over the world, and this includes N95 masks. The brand is known for producing and distributing high-quality products that have been approved by the government.
These masks are as valuable as they are scarce all over the world. Among the many medical supplies that have been scarce throughout this pandemic, N95 masks are definitely the most affected ones. Despite the incredible work done by 3M, they haven’t been able to meet the demand for this product, which is considered one of the most crucial ways healthcare workers protect themselves from COVID-19 infection.
On November 6, a spokesperson for the company told CBS MoneyWatch that the national and global demand for all types of medical PPE is still exceeding the supply. As they explained, some clients are requesting up to 20 times the normal amount they would have needed before the pandemic, and have also been receiving too many requests from new clients. When COVID-19 cases surge, their sales increase again.
3M went from producing 22 million N95 masks in 2019 to 95 million expected to be produced by the end of 2020. Still, it doesn’t seem to be enough to alleviate the shortages.
N95 masks and their importance during the pandemic
N95 masks are currently the best type of disposable face mask healthcare workers can use for virus protection. This is due to their high antiviral capacities, which exceed those found in regular medical or surgical masks. For this reason, they’ve been one of the main focuses during the pandemic, becoming a crucial part of the PPE needed in healthcare settings which are places of high exposure to the virus.
These masks are a type of respirator inside the classification used as the filtration standard inside the United States, which is the one established by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, also known as NIOSH. This is a federal agency that is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which regulates respirators according to their two-part naming system.
NIOSH establishes that respirators marketed as N95 masks must be non-resistant to oil (indicated with the letter ‘N’) and be able to filter out 95% of the airborne particles in the air, which are those with a size of 0.3 microns. This means these respirators can effectively filter out 95% of non-oil based airborne particles, such as pollen, dust, and smoke, which are potent allergens, as well as microorganisms that may cause very serious illnesses, like the flu or COVID-19. They can’t filter out glycerin, cutting fluids, or any other particles with oil, as well as gases or vapors.
This means they have many different uses in different work industries, but they have been recently widely used in the healthcare field. They’re often paired with face shields to add eye protection and get confused often with KN95 masks, their equivalent according to the Chinese filtration standard. FFP2 respirators are also considered equivalent to these two, but these are regulated under the European standard.
These masks used to be found for sale easily, even in online stores, where anyone could buy them in bulk and wholesale. Now, with the devastating shortages that have been affecting healthcare centers, it’s important to make sure these items reach these facilities where they’re needed most. This is why the CDC encourages the general public to combine the use of reusable cloth masks with social distancing measures to prevent the spread of the virus, one of our main priorities at the moment. This includes the use of these masks in kids over the age of 2.