During the COVID-19 pandemic, personal protective equipment (PPE) used in the healthcare field has been particularly important. The increased workload medical professionals have experienced during this situation has led to a gigantic demand for these products, leading to shortages being reported across the United States and the world.
But, one of the most prominent companies because of their incredible work in the production of medical supplies during the pandemic has been Honeywell. Their work in manufacturing N95 masks in particular has been helpful, as these masks have been one of the most sought after items during the pandemic. Along with 3M N95 masks, including the 3M 8511, 3M 8210, and 3M 8610, Honeywell N95 masks are a reliable item in the USA.
However, although they don’t offer the same amount of protection as N95 ones, surgical masks are also important during this situation. Here’s a general explanation about these masks and whether or not Honeywell manufactures them.
What constitutes a surgical mask?
Surgical masks are disposable face masks widely recognized in the healthcare field for being the ones we usually see being worn by doctors or nurses. They’re used during surgical, medical, and dental procedures with the goal of preventing contamination of the field. They also protect the wearer from being exposed to contact with either solid or liquid material that can be potentially contaminated, which are released during these procedures.
You might recognize them for their characteristic blue and white color scheme and their ear-loops. They might get confused with procedure masks, which has the function of mainly preventing the user from spreading their germs into the environment, and are important during certain procedures and to treat immunocompromised patients. But, they don’t offer a lot of fluid resistance, which is why they’re not considered surgical masks.
Surgical masks protect the wearer’s mouth and nose from being in contact with the fluids released during surgeries by forming a physical barrier between them and the environment. Certain diseases and conditions might be developed when contaminated fluids are in contact with the mucous membranes, and this protects the healthcare worker from that. The fluid resistance in surgical masks varies according to the type, which we’ll explain later.
The filtering capacities of surgical masks are limited to large particles, which means they’re not efficient for filtering out airborne particles (those with a size of 0.3 micrometers). Such particles include not only dust, smoke, and pollen, but also a prominent threat in the healthcare field at the moment: viruses, including the flu and the new coronavirus.
Protection against viruses is provided by N95 masks, also known as N95 respirators, which have been considered the best option for virus protection in healthcare settings due to their high antiviral filtrating properties.
The protection we’ve described above offered by surgical masks is present in both directions. They don’t only protect the wearer’s mouth and nose from the environment, they also prevent the wearer from releasing their respiratory fluids into the environment. This is important in many situations to avoid contamination of a sterile field, like we explained above.
Like all disposable face masks, which are those that haven’t been designed to be reusable, and should only be used once and then discarded, certain measures need to be taken while wearing them. The first one being that, as soon as they get wet or damaged, they must be discarded properly and replaced with a new one. They can’t be shared with other people either.
When handling these masks, either to put them on, adjust them, or take them off, the inside or outside of the facepiece must be avoided to prevent contamination, handling them by the ear-loops or head-straps. Before and after doing so, washing the hands is recommended.
As we mentioned a little earlier, surgical masks can have varying levels of effectiveness. These are established by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM), an organization that sets international standards for systems, services, materials, and products.
Surgical masks are one of the healthcare products classified by them, and the ASTM establishes three levels in surgical masks depending on their effectiveness as a barrier protection, with level 1 being the lowest and level 3 the highest.
Honeywell and their work in the manufacturing of surgical masks
Honeywell is one of the biggest American companies when it comes to manufacturing of all types of PPE. However, when they were founded in 1905, they were mostly known for producing heating systems and thermostats. In fact, to this day, many households contain these Honeywell products. But, since the coronavirus pandemic became our biggest threat, this company has been the main provider for medical supplies and PPE not only in the USA, but all around the world.
Although their most notable work has come from the increase in the production of N95 masks, Honeywell has also done incredible work in producing other scarce items like face shields, but unfortunately, classic surgical masks aren’t one of them. Even though KN95 masks and surgical masks are also needed in bulk and wholesale purchases by healthcare centers, Honeywell doesn’t manufacture them currently.
To help out our healthcare workers right now, the best thing we can do is to stay safe during the holidays. To achieve this, the use of cloth masks is recommended, since these are completely cleanable and reusable, and can be worn by kids above the age of 2. Medical-grade masks and respirators have been very difficult to find for sale, which is why we need to reserve their use for the healthcare field.