The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult to obtain certain products, particularly personal protective equipment (PPE). N95 masks have been the main focus during the last several months, with healthcare centers struggling to obtain them. At the beginning of the pandemic, they were easy to find for sale online, with options to buy them in bulk or wholesale, but now, they’re very difficult to get, with most distributors reserving them for hospitals.
Uline, the American shipping company, is currently offering services to ship N95 masks. In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of these masks, and how Uline ships them.
Uline is a private company that has been widely popular since the 80s. It was founded by Elizabeth and Richard Uihlein, inspired by the local need for a shipping supply distributor, starting it with headquarters in their basement. After gaining success, this allowed them to move out to their first headquarters in Illinois.
Over the 80s and 90s, they started to expand this business to New Jersey, Minnesota, and California, and managed to sell over 4,000 in their catalog during the 90s. With the new millennium, they expanded to other countries, now having operations in Canada and Mexico as well, and further expanded their operations inside the USA to Georgia, Texas, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Currently, they have around 6,700 employees in total.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve continued to distribute high-quality and certified N95 masks, including NIOSH-approved models by 3M and Moldex, as well as their line of N95 masks, which are also approved by NIOSH. They are available for shipping through their website.
N95 masks: why are they important?
Inside the USA, there’s a federal agency, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in charge of making science and research-based recommendations that can help prevent injuries, accidents, and diseases related to the workplace. This institution is the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, commonly known by its acronym, NIOSH.
As part of their job, they created a classification for respirators, considered the standard to follow inside the United States. They regulate, test, and certify whether or not the respirator meets the criteria for each type inside the classification. They take into consideration two characteristics to classify respirators.
The first one is resistance to oil, indicated with a letter at the beginning of the respirator’s name, which means whether or not the respirator can filter out particles that contain oil in them. The letters can be either N, for not resistant, R for resistant, or P for oil-proof.
The second characteristic is filtration rate, indicated by the minimum particulate filtration efficacy, a percentage that tells us the number of particles the respirator can filter out from the air. Respirators can have a 95, 99, or 100% filtration rate in this classification.
The classification, as a result of combining all the alternatives of each characteristic, has nine possible respirator types. Some examples include the N99, the R100, the P95, or the R99.
According to this, the name of the N95 respirator makes sense now that you know it’s a respirator inside the NIOSH classification. The name indicates that the respirator isn’t resistant to oil and that it can filter out at least 95% of the airborne particles from the air that is being inhaled. This makes them effective for protection against non-oil based airborne particles, which include dust, smoke, and several viruses, including the flu and the coronavirus. They can’t filter out particles that contain oil, like glycerine and cutting fluids, or particles that are smaller than 0.3 microns, like hazardous vapors and gases.
Because of this, N95 masks have been widely used during the COVID-19 pandemic, considered to be the best disposable face mask for virus protection during this emergency. The antiviral properties this face mask offers are much more efficient than those found in surgical, medical, or reusable cloth masks. Some of the most widely used N95 mask models are the 3M N95 masks, with popular models being the 3M 8210 and the 3M 8511.
It's important to point out that KN95 masks are different from N95 masks, but they often get confused with each other. KN95 masks are regulated under the Chinese filtration standard, which is slightly different from the NIOSH standard. However, they’re generally considered to be equivalent to N95 masks and can be interchangeable during emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the CDC, they can substitute N95 masks when they’re not available. Another equivalent to N95 masks, but according to the European standard for filtration, are the FFP2 respirators.
N95 masks have to be approved by NIOSH to certify that it meets their criteria for N95 respirators, and it’s the only way to legitimize the respirator and that it offers the protection N95 masks are supposed to offer. If the respirator is intended to be used in healthcare settings, they also need approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Right now, staying protected in public is the main focus to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which can be deadly to certain vulnerable groups of people. Anyone who uses face-covering, including kids over the age of 2 years old with smaller-sized masks, is helping the healthcare workers face this pandemic more comfortably. Let’s all do our part in this difficult time, and protect ourselves so we can keep those vulnerable people inside our communities safe and protected during this scary situation.