3M, as you probably know, is one of the most prevalent brands in the world when it comes to personal protective equipment (PPE.) They were formerly known as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, and in the 120+ years they’ve been in business, they’ve become the most preferred option for employers and employees when it comes to high-quality respirators to keep them safe at the workplace.
3M offers one of the widest ranges of filters and respirator face masks, and they’re all a great choice for workers and workplaces that are regularly exposed to contaminated or unfiltered air. But one of the most vital factors of whether or not you should choose one of their masks is the “lifespan” of the respirator’s efficiency.
It doesn’t matter if you’re using their 2000, 5000, or even 6000 series full face mask respirators – you must first know when to replace them and how long their efficiency really lasts against contaminants.
To do this, we must first examine the types of filters that 3M provides, as well as the general guidelines given by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Keep in mind, 3M itself does not provide any information about the service longevity of their masks, so it’s up to other authorities to determine this variable.
First of all, what kinds of filters can 3M provide you with?
One of the most important factors in your respirator’s longevity will be its filter. 3M is known for using some of the most widespread types of filter brands out there, and they include:
- Gas and vapor cartridge filters. 3M provides different types of filters for each individual gas and vapor that could potentially pose a threat to the wearer.
- Particulate filters. These kinds of filters are designed to safeguard the wearer from aerosols, bacteria, mold, fumes, smoke, dust, and so on. Depending on the amount of contaminated particles in the air, the filter might be a different type.
- Combo filters. When it comes to your specific workplace or situation, a combo filter might actually be your best choice. This is because using a specific combination of the two former filters can create an effective solution to the contaminants in a particular work environment.
To increase the longevity of your respirator, the best thing you can do is replace these filters. But if you do not have access to any extra filters for your mask, then you’re left without that option. In that case…
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, workers in industries that continuously use 3M N95 respirator face masks can do so for up to 8 hours. However, this might be a little bit more or a little bit less, depending on the functional specifications of both the work environment and of the mask used.
And in a world that is constantly trying to find new ways to protect itself against the novel coronavirus, 3M masks have become one of the general public’s favorite choices for protection.
Without a doubt, 3M N95 respirator face masks are extremely effective when it comes to safeguarding you from dangerous particles in the air. Because of their air filtration and extra thickness, they’re a much more practical choice when it comes to slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
But whether you’re a person trying to protect themselves while going to the store, a service industry worker looking to stay safe at work, or a healthcare worker working the front line during the coronavirus pandemic, the question remains:
How long should you be using your N95 respirator?
The general guidelines for the longevity of N95 respirators are that they should be used for up to 8-10-12 hours depending on the degree of exposure. This means that regular replacement of the mask is absolutely necessary to ensure safety.
In terms of N95 respirator’s shelf life, they’ll remain effective for years after their date of production. More specifically, up to 5 years. (You can check the date that is printed on the package of your mask to find its date of production.)
Moreover, you have to make sure that if you own an N95 respirator, it’s stored properly and in its original packaging. As we all know, storage conditions can drastically impact the durability and effectiveness of your mask.
That being said, there are a couple of situations in which discarding your N95 mask and putting on a new one is recommended.
These situations include:
- Dispose of your mask if you used it in an aerosol-generating procedure.
- Discard of your mask if it is contaminated with body fluid secretions – nasal secretions, respiratory secretions, or any other type of body fluid.
- Dispose of your mask if you’ve been in close contact with an environment or a patient that is infected with the disease you’re trying to protect yourself from.