During this year many things have changed, and one of them is the fact that we’re having to wear face masks in public now. They have become a staple of our daily routines, and remembering to grab one is as important as your phone and your keys. For this reason, they’ve been one of the most important topics of discussion since the beginning of the pandemic. In particular, N95 respirators have been highly talked about, and are considered a crucial item for the protection of healthcare workers while doing their job.
These respirators have also come with a certain degree of controversy in the United States, with shortages of medical PPE (personal protective equipment) affecting these masks in particular around the world. The scarcity of these masks specifically has led authorities to encourage the general public to wear reusable cloth masks to reserve these respirators for healthcare centers.
Most states in the USA have reported these shortages, so many resources and research institutions have focused their attention on finding a solution to this problem. For example, many startups for reusable N95 masks have been made, as well as for decontamination systems, and new ways to make their manufacturing process much faster and cheaper. In addition to this, big companies have been ramping their production of these masks, but still, the demand is too high.
During the pandemic, Honeywell International Inc. has been one of the most reliable sources for all types of medical PPE, but mainly of N95 masks. They’ve been working to make sure healthcare centers inside the USA are being supplied with enough respirators to fight off the pandemic safely. In this article, we’ll discuss Honeywell’s history and its role in providing N95 masks during the pandemic.
Honeywell and their role as a reliable source for N95 masks.
This is an American company that was founded by a man named Mark Honeywell, who named the company after himself in 1905. He began manufacturing mainly heating and sanitary systems, gaining popularity and success for their thermostats and water heating systems, products they’re known for to this day over 100 years later. As the years went by, they have increased their catalogs, and are now known for many different products.
They currently produce PPE for many different work fields but have been gaining popularity for their medical PPE and supplies, especially since the pandemic began. They’re the number one competitor of fellow American PPE manufacturer 3M in the production and supply of N95 masks, one of the most necessary items at the moment. They have been one of the most reliable sources to obtain high-quality N95 respirators.
To help supply the country with these valuable masks, they’ve been implementing strategies to increase their production rate. They even created a new production line for these masks located in Smithfield, Rhode Island. All the N95 respirators manufactured there are directly shipped to the US Department of Health and Human Services to be part of the national emergency stockpile for frontline workers. This has been one of their most incredible efforts to help alleviate the shortages of N95 respirators inside the country, but still, it hasn’t been enough to completely eradicate the problem.
They haven’t been safe from the problem of shortages, as they too haven’t been able to produce as many masks as to meet the incredible demand they’ve been receiving for them. As the pandemic progresses, and the COVID-19 cases increase, this situation is only expected to become worse.
The importance of N95 masks during the pandemic, and why shortages are so devastating for healthcare facilities
Why are N95 masks necessary in the healthcare field?
These masks aren’t like regular masks, they’re a specific type of respirator that is considered the best disposable face mask available at the moment. It offers virus protection in situations of high exposure to the virus, like healthcare settings, due to its high antiviral qualities that aren’t present in other types of face masks, including surgical or cloth ones.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, also known as NIOSH, they are respirators with no resistance to oil and a filtration rate of 95%, which means they can effectively filter out 95% of the non-oil based airborne particles in the air. These are particles that don’t contain oil and have a size as small as 0.3 microns. Such particles include dust, smoke, pollen, and certain bioaerosols responsible for many respiratory diseases, like COVID-19 or the flu. These masks can’t, however, protect against glycerin, cutting fluids, vapors, or gases.
N95 respirators have many uses outside the healthcare field, protecting workers in the mining or construction fields as well, among others. So, any N95 mask must be approved by NIOSH to certify it’s been tested by the agency and it works as effectively as it should. When they’re going to be marketed for medical uses, they need approval by the Food and Drug Administration as well.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, these respirators gained prominence as one of the most necessary items in the healthcare field to protect workers. They often pair these masks with goggles or face shields to protect the eyes as well, and some of the most widely used models are the 3M 8210 and the 3M 8511, both 3M N95 masks. They are also often confused with KN95 masks, a very similar mask that is manufactured under different filtration standards used in China, but can be considered to be their equivalent.
N95 masks are hard to buy in bulk or wholesale at the moment, which is why the CDC urges the general public to wear reusable cloth masks in public settings combined with social distancing measures. These can be found for sale online or be made at home with easy-to-find materials and can be worn by kids over the age of 2.