Personal protective equipment (PPE) is extremely important right now for healthcare workers to safely work during the pandemic. N95 masks in particular have been the main focus for protection in healthcare providers, as they’re considered the most effective face mask for protection against COVID-19. But, the days in which they were easily found online for sale, and bought in bulk and wholesale by regular people, are in the past.
Uline is a shipping company that offers to ship N95 masks across the United States. In this article we’ll talk about them, the importance of N95 masks, and why they’re different from other popular face-coverings.
A simple explanation on N95 masks
N95 masks are disposable face masks used in many workplaces to protect the worker from respiratory hazards, particles that, when inhaled, can severely deteriorate the person’s health. They’re respirators named according to the classification established by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
They’re in charge of making science-based recommendations to prevent work-related injuries or illnesses, and as part of their job, they also regulate respirators. They test them and certify they meet the criteria for each type of respirator. The classification takes into consideration two characteristics: filtration rate and oil-resistance.
The filtration rate is represented by the minimum particulate filtration efficacy; a percentage that indicates the number of particles the respirator can filter out from the environment as the wearer inhales air. It can be either 95, 99, or 100%. The oil-resistance is indicated with the letters N, for not resistant, R for resistant, or P for oil-proof. This tells us whether or not the respirator can protect against particles that contain oil.
N95 masks aren’t resistant to oil, which means it can’t filter out oil-based particles like glycerine or lubricants. The name also indicates a filtration rate of 95% of the airborne particles in the air, which doesn’t include smaller particles like gas and vapors. They’re effective against non-oil based airborne particles like dust, smoke, or viruses like the flu or the new novel coronavirus.
This makes them the preferred choice for healthcare workers to be protected at work during the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re considered the best disposable face mask for antiviral purposes, offering higher virus protection than other options like surgical face masks or reusable cloth masks. Some of the most widely used models include the 3M 8511 and the 3M 8210, both 3M N95 masks.
N95 masks are often confused with KN95 masks, respirators regulated under the Chinese standard for filtration. The standard in the USA is slightly different, and therefore both masks can’t be considered to be the same. But, they’re generally considered to be interchangeable, and KN95 masks can substitute N95 masks if these are not available during emergencies, like the COVID-19 pandemic. FFP2 are similarly considered the equivalent to N95 masks under the European filtration standard.
Surgical masks are disposable face masks that are intended to be used in healthcare settings. They’re often referred to as medical or dental masks as well, and they can be used in these types of procedures too. They’re sterile face masks that act primarily as a physical barrier between the wearer and respiratory fluids that might come from the environment, and vice versa.
As a filter, they can only trap large particles, unlike N95 masks. They’re not effective for antiviral or antimicrobial purposes. They’re also loose-fitting around the face, leaving space for leakage of air that can be inhaled unfiltered. N95 masks are required to fit tightly around the face, with many workplaces performing individual fit-tests for each worker. N95 masks also can’t be worn with facial hair to ensure this tight fit.
Reusable cloth masks, as the name suggests, are masks made of regular clothing fabric. At the start of the pandemic, experts weren’t sure if this was an effective resource for virus control. Now, it’s been scientifically proven that when everyone uses these cloth masks in public the spread of the virus significantly decreases. But, they’re not effective to filter out the air, which is why they can’t substitute N95 masks in healthcare settings.
Uline is a private American company that offers shipping services. It was founded in the 80s by Elizabeth and Richard Uihlein after they recognized a local need for a shipping supply distributor. The Uihleins started this company from their basement, and their success eventually allowed them to move into their first headquarters in Illinois.
Over the years they have expanded, initially with operations in New Jersey, Minnesota, and California, selling over 4,000 products during the 90s. Since the 2000s they have operations in Canada and Mexico also, and expanded their distribution centers to Texas, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Georgia. They currently have approximately 6,700 employees.
They carry high-quality N95 masks inside their catalog, including 3M N95 masks in the models 3M 8210 and 3M 8511, which are approved by NIOSH. Other brands include Moldex, and their own Uline brand of N95 respirators, also approved by NIOSH, meaning that they meet the filtration standards used in the USA.
Anyone who uses a face-covering, leaving the medical-grade ones to the first responders and workers of healthcare centers, is doing their part to face this scary situation. Kids over the age of 2 years old can wear face-coverings in the appropriate size. It’s been scientifically proven that wearing face-coverings in highly populated areas where you’re in contact with people outside your household is an effective way to prevent the spread of the virus.