The N95 respirator is a respiratory protective device used in medical and health care settings to reduce the risk of getting affected by infectious agents present in the health care settings. N95 respirators became more popular and in-demand after the outbreak of COVID-19 and wildfires in certain states of the United States of America (USA). The N95 respirators have a filtration efficiency of 95%, durability, and usability. N95 respirators are also manufactured for occupational workers where people are exposed to the dust and other harmful particles. All N95 respirators have to undergo a certain test to get all the above-mentioned qualities.
The major reason why the masks or respirators are inferior to the N95 respirators is that the N95 respirators filter out or block hazardous airborne particles, which are the size of 0.3um. These harmful and hazardous airborne particles include pollutants, contaminants, dust, dirt, mist, infectious agents, viral diseases, and a plethora of other hazardous particles as well. if a person, infected by COVID-19, meets another individual, that individual could breathe in the virus; which would do the contrary, i.e., the COVID-19 cases will drastically virus and the spike in COVID-19 cases will never suppress.
There is a certain standard on which N95 respirators are approved. N95 respirators have to meet some foreign standards including the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Center for Disease Control (CDC), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These standards ensure the safety and security of all health care practitioners because the N95 respirator is designed to be used in medical settings to prevent the risk of various hazardous infections.
The standards on which the N95 respirators are evaluated address several issues including filtration efficiency, breathability, fit and fluid barrier. N95 respirators must be evaluated on these standards and certified by NIOSH. The filtration efficiency of the N95 respirator can be tested by a variety of methods. Each method includes different particle size, particle charge, particle measurement, airflow velocity, and type of particles. NIOSH method has different testing standards and N95 respirators are approved by NIOSH for 95% filtration efficiency which means N95 respirators can filter out all airborne and dust particles up to 95%.
The breathability of the N95 respirator can also be approved by NIOSH in which maximum inhalation resistance of 0.34kPa and maximum exhalation resistance of 0.24kPa are used to check the breathing rate. Fit testing is also required for the workers who use the N95 respirator. OSHA requires a fit test for the employers before they are required to wear a respirator. This test is also considered as NIOSH fit standard because N95 respirators are designed to provide a very close seal around the wearer’s nose and the mouth. However, this test is not mandatory for N95 respirators.
N95 respirators should also be tested for fluid barriers. By this method, respirators are tested for the rapid penetration capability of any liquid including blood and water. N95 respirator should also be tested for flammability and biocompatibility.
Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) respiratory protection standard requires that all of the N95 respirators worn by industrial workers should be certified by NIOSH. However, due to the shortage of N95 respirators in the pandemic, this requirement had been suspended to meet the demand in the U.S.A.
FDA on their website also documented some imported n95 respirators that are not NIOSH approved but they are appropriate for the safety of public health. FDA had uploaded the list of those permissible N95 respirators to make sure that you are ordering the permissible N95 respirator.
Center for Disease Control (CDC) has certain standard respiratory testing procedures for air-purifying respirators and these procedures include determination of particulate filter penetration (PAPR), determination of Exhalation resistance, determination of exhalation valve leakage, determination of inhalation resistance, determination of airflow.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved all N95 respirators based on a single-use disposable face mask. If the wearer experiences any difficulty in breathing then it is recommended to discard that an N95 respirator and order a new N95 respirator according to the size and shape of an individual’s face.
FDA has also issued EUA (Emergency Use Authorizations) for the decontamination system used in decontaminating certain N95 respirators when there was a shortage in the supply of new N95 respirators in all health care settings.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) approved, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved N95 respirators are in high demand during the COVID-19 pandemic as they meet all standards of public safety and security.
The N95 respirators, approved by these organizations, can be worn for a longer period. The N95 mask can filter out or block airborne particles, which are the size of 0.3um, droplets caused after a person coughs or talks; and in an emergency, it can be reused by different decontamination methods.
However, the CDC strictly recommended that the N95 respirator ought to be used in a health care setting where doctors, nurses, and other staff members are at high risk of getting infected. This is because of a national supply shortage of N95 masks. CDC recommends a cloth face mask and surgical mask for general public safety.