Are valved N95 Masks better?

With us all facing one of its kind diseases spread all around the world in the form of a worldwide pandemic, we are obliged to be responsible and aware of all changes and data available about its prevention. Covid-19, a disease developed by genetic evolution in the common cold-causing coronavirus giving rise to the novel coronavirus, has the world terrorized due to it's rapidly growing cases. Being a responsible citizen of our country, a responsible member of our family, and a responsible part of humanity in general, we have specific duties. One of which is being aware and knowing what is best for us in a global pandemic situation. Let's cut to the chase and start by making our brain cells aware of one of the ways of prevention, i.e., N95 masks, and what we should know about it.  

What is a N95 Mask?

Making ourselves aware of N95 masks, let's first decode the "N" and "95" in the N95 masks. The Capital "N" stands as a representative of the mask that is "not resistant" to oil-based aerosols, for example, lubricants, cutting fluids, etc. Like a tail behind it, "95" stands for the inconsideration respirator's efficiency, the efficiency of it when it was tested by an aerosol that had mass mean aerodynamic diameter of accurately 0.3 micrometers and this is particle size is considered as one the most penetrating particle size by many other respirators on which this was tested. They are considered the best choice until or unless you have work that puts you in oil exposure. They aren't like surgical masks or any other such respirators; they have earned themselves NIOSH certification (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health). This certification puts the required stamp on the N95 being a respirator and not a mask.

These N95 respirators come in two different models, models that are made according to the convenience of the one wearing them, making them both different from each other in uniquely creative ways. These masks are available online at competitive prices. One can buy these masks on different online shopping portals.  The two different N95 respirators are:

  1. Valved N95 Respirators - It has a valve, or you can also say an air valve made out on its front. 
  1. Not Valved N95 Respirators - As the name is self-explanatory, it does not have a valve on its front.

Let's discuss if Valved N95 Masks are better? 

To answer this question simply and being outright truthful about it, no, the valved N95 masks are not better. 

N95 respirators can be seen around in various brands and also have different types. But the use of an exhalation valve can be very much capable of exposing the patient to a virus if you are a carrier without symptoms or a positive case, i.e., the carrier with symptoms. Thus the use of it is not at all recommended in a sterile field.

The exhilaration valves present on N95 respirators are generally made up of three parts: the cover, the seat, and the membrane. These exhalation valves are not built up with a filter of their own within it. If we look at the corners of the membrane for the raw edges, we find that it is constructed out of a flexible material that can open and shut itself depending on where the airflow is directed towards. 

When you exhale, the membrane present in the valve gets open towards the outside, providing room between the membrane and the seat, which is a straightforward path for moist air to escape out without any restriction. When the respirator's membrane is in this open state, the aerosol particles are all the more welcome to travel with all the freedom around the membrane.

While inhaling, the membrane remains in its flat and closed state, which is supposed to adhere to the seat firmly. While in the closed state, the membrane makes sure to block the air and airborne particles trying to get in, and you are rewarded by breathing filtered air through the dense fibers that consist of the respirator. 

An N95 respirator equipped with an exhalation valve does ensure your protection, but it fails miserably in providing the protection control against the source. Thus, it manages to provide the same level of protection to the wearer that is provided by the one that does not have a valve. But because the exhalation valve allows unfiltered exhaled air to have a chance at escaping and thus putting people around you at a very high risk of getting infected if you, in any case, are a carrier with no symptoms or in the worst-case scenario you are indeed suffering and are complementary. 

So what purpose does the valve serve if it cannot even be optimal for seeing patients?

The valves for exhalation present on the N95 respirators are more or less invented for industrial use, and that is because:

  • It is very well capable of keeping the face temperature cooler.
  • It also helps reduce the building up of any moisture inside one's face inside the overall facepiece. 

An N95 valved respirator used for social distancing is very ineffective when it comes to preventing infections. As a responsible human, you should not be wearing masks with exhalation valves, even just for social distancing to protect your colleagues, friends, and family. Rather, buy N95 respirator without valves, these are the most effective masks to combat the coronavirus as it seals the mouth and nose completely, prevents the virus from coming inside or going outside and hence, serves the purpose efficiently. 

 

 

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