N95 masks have been at the center of attention during this pandemic since they’re the most protective masks out there. An item once found easily for sale online and that could be bought by anyone in bulk and wholesale now is very difficult to find and buy. These shortages mainly affect healthcare centers, where exposure to the virus is very high, and people work there at high risks of infection.
It’s safe to say the COVID-19 pandemic has had a big impact on the market for N95 masks, so today we’ll analyze this a bit further.
COVID-19 and the N95 mask market
Usage of masks has significantly increased around the world since the pandemic began, since it’s become necessary to wear one in public settings or when we’re interacting with people outside our household. They’re currently the most powerful resource to control the spread of the respiratory virus responsible for COVID-19, as well as other infections that can be transmitted through fluid droplets.
According to an analysis made by Transparency Market Research on the impact COVID-19 has had on the N95 mask market showed that North America accounts for most of the share of the global N95 mask market during the period of forecast. They anticipate the market in this region to grow quickly, as they’re shown USA’s citizens as well as the citizens in other countries in the region, prefer to wear masks than to be exposed to respiratory viruses like the flu or the SARS-CoV-2, as well as air pollutants. They expect Europe to be the second-largest market during this period because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
In Asia Pacific, the N95 mask market is expected to expand during the period of forecast, due to the COVID-19 outbreak in China and the proliferation into the neighboring countries.
According to the analysis, the global N95 mask market is consolidated with few key players, among which the leading ones we can name 3M, with 3M N95 masks like the 3M 8511 and the 3M 8210 being some of the most popular, Honeywell International Inc., Cardinal Health, Cambridge Mask Co., and others.
Transparency Market Research is a company that provides global business information, services, and reports, specialized in global market intelligence. They blend quantitative forecasting and trends analysis, providing insight for decision-making in several aspects. They continuously update and revise their repository data to reflect the latest information.
N95 masks: a quick explanation
The name ‘N95’ is given to respirators with no oil resistance that can filter out at least 95% of the airborne particles in the air. This is according to the classification of respirators established by a federal agency that is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, commonly referred to as NIOSH. They regulate respirators as part of their job to help workplaces inside the United States prevent work-related illnesses and injuries.
Respirators are used in many work settings in which workers are exposed to harmful particles, known as respiratory hazards. Respirators prevent the wearer from inhaling these particles, which can cause very severe health conditions in people exposed to them during prolonged periods, a situation that happens in many work settings.
The classification after which N95 masks are named is based on a two-part system: the first part is a letter, indicating the resistance to oil, which tells us if the respirator can filter out particles that contain this type of molecules, and the N means not resistant, while R and P rated respirators are somewhat resistant and oil-proof respectively. Then, a number indicates the number of airborne particles (those with a size of 0.3 micrometers) the respirator can filter out from the air, represented by the minimum particulate filtration efficacy, which can be either 95, 99, or 100%.
All the respirators manufactured following this classification must be tested and approved by NIOSH to ensure they’re legitimate, and that they do meet the requirements for each respirator type. If the respirator is intended to be used in healthcare settings, the FDA must also approve it.
So, N95 respirators are great options for filtering out 95% of the non-oil-based airborne particles in the air, which includes particles like smoke, dust, or even microorganisms like the coronavirus or the flu virus. This makes them the best disposable face mask for virus protection, with antiviral properties that make them the preferred option for healthcare workers who are in high-exposure environments.
Some popular models are the 3M 8210 and the 3M 8511, both 3M N95 masks. In healthcare settings, they’re often worn with face shields or goggles, since the virus can also be transmitted when the fluid droplets reach the eyes. They fit tightly around the face, leaving no space for air leakage, making sure all the air is going through the filter media.
KN95 masks are considered the equivalent of N95 masks under the Chinese filtration standard. However, it’s important to point out they’re not the same mask, as there are some slight differences between these standards. But, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the shortages of N95 respirators, many KN95 mask models have been granted an Emergency Use Authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration to be used in healthcare settings.
As always, we remind our readers to stay protected wearing a face-covering, leaving medical-grade masks like the N95 masks to the workers on the frontlines. The CDC recommends everyone, including kids over the age of 2, to take this measure in public settings. Anyone who uses their face-covering, particularly reusable cloth masks, is doing their part to prevent the spread of this deathly virus.