How Is An N95 Respirator Different From A Disposable Mask?

When it comes to the great mask debate, the debate should not be whether or not you should wear one. The question that people should ask is what kind of mask you should wear. Should you wear an N95 respirator? Should you wear a disposable mask? 

In this article, we will discuss the difference between an N95 respirator and a disposable mask. What makes one mask better than the other? What should you use if you live in the US where there are millions of cases?

What Are Disposable Surgical Masks? 

A common mask question that every person has is related to what disposable masks are. What are disposable masks? 

Disposable masks are also known as surgical masks or medical masks. In the United States, there are a lot of individuals questioning the use of medical masks and how it affects the environment. However, medical experts believe that is a conversation for another time. 

Surgical masks are important in the fight against the coronavirus. Surgical masks are disposable and loose-fitting masks that aim to cover the mouth and the nose from any and all kinds of respiratory droplets. Healthcare workers are the priority users for disposable masks. 

The following are the characteristics of this type of mask that make wearing disposable masks worth it:

They are fluid resistant. Since the main goal is to create a mask that would resist droplets in the air, disposable masks serve their purpose by being fluid resistant. 

They are not as reliable in the fight against the coronavirus because of the unique nature of the small airborne particles. According to the Center for Disease Control, face masks do not provide smaller protection against the virus compared to an N95 respirator. 

They are tested according to high National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) standards. The standards are set by ASTM International as ASTM F2100-19. These standards are the following:

  • bacterial filtration efficiency;
  • differential pressure
  • sub-micron particulate filtration efficiency;
  • resistance to synthetic blood; and 
  • flammability. 

What Are N95 Respirators?

N95 respirators are considered as the gold standard when it comes to respirators. They are also disposable but compared to disposable masks, N95 respirators are often used by individuals who are exposed in the field a lot. Medical healthcare workers and those in the frontlines would recommend the use of N95 respirators for the vulnerable sector of the population. 

By definition, N95 respirators are also called filtering facepiece respirators. 

As filtering facepiece respirators, N95 respirators offer a wider protection against airborne particles than any of its counterparts. Clinically, N95 respirators provide “negative pressure particulate respirator with a filter as an integral part of the facepiece or with the entire facepiece composed of the filtering medium."

NIOSH standards set for N95 respirators is a filtering system that can remove at least ninety five percent of the particles in the air. This would include aerosols, respiratory droplets that stay in the air and the like. As such, N95 respirators are often tight-fitting and must be worn without any space between the mask and the skin. 

The person wearing an N95 respirator must be able to conform to the fit test. The N95 respirator will not be able to serve its purpose if the wearer is unable to seal himself off from the environment that he is in. 

What Are The Differences? 

Between an N95 respirator and a disposable mask, the N95 respirator is the better choice. In the United States where there are millions of cases, having the right kind of mask is the best way you can protect yourself. 

As to the fit, N95 respirators fit better than the disposable masks. They then provide a stricter protection for the user rather than the loose-fitting disposable masks. The fit test is necessary to ensure that the mask serves its purpose without further risking or bringing harm to the end-user. 

As to the protection, N95 respirators filter out around 95% of airborne particles and that standard is just one of many standards set by the NIOSH to make the N95 respirators better than any other in the market. Disposable masks, on the other hand, filter out large airborne particles. This fact means that for those who are not in the medical field nor in the frontlines, the use of the disposable masks is recommended. 

As to the use, both the N95 respirators and the disposable masks are disposable. They have a lifespan of 8 hours without exposure to the virus-positive patients while they should be discarded and replaced upon contact. 

As to the form, both the N95 respirators and the disposable masks provide protection. No matter how small the level of protection that the disposable masks may provide, they are still medical grade and must be used by the vulnerable population.

Protect Yourself Against The Virus

Whether you use N95 respirators or use disposable masks, you must find a way to protect yourself from the virus. While the medical community is currently racing for a vaccine and a cure, it is necessary for you to protect yourself. 

Protection starts at home. As the world dwells and deals with the problem, make sure that you have all that you need to provide protection for yourself and your family. If you can afford it, buy N95 respirators that will serve as your investment for the future. In today’s pandemic-ridden world, protection and prevention, unlike a complete cure, are certainties that the majority of us can afford to strive for.

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