The N95 respirator is a part of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that protects the wearer from foreign germs, viral agents, and a plethora of other airborne particulates. Although N95 respirators are effective at the filtration of particulate matter, it is not effective at keeping the wearer safe from chemicals, gases, vapors, and oil, etc. Since the N95 respirator provides a tight facial fit to the wearer’s face, the face mask does not cause leakage. Therefore, solid particulates cannot enter the body of the wearer.
This is what makes the N95 respirator comparatively more efficient than surgical masks, KN95 respirators, and cloth masks. The N95 respirator has been certified by NIOSH—National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health—for use and protection against airborne particulates. It is helpful in the reduction of exposure to airborne particulates that cause several minor illnesses and major diseases. Therefore, it has been urged to use the N95 respirator because of its effectiveness.
There are several benefits to reusing an N95 respirator. Following are some of those benefits
Immense scarcity of N95 respirators
Because of COVID-19, the market for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as N95 respirators, surgical masks, and cloth masks has drastically risen. Before the pandemic, the market for face masks and N95 respirators was suffering, and there was no demand for either of these things whatsoever. However, after the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, the demand for N95 respirators and surgical masks has risen as a result of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
The majority of the face masks and N95 respirators were manufactured in China prior to the breakout of the novel coronavirus. Healthcare facilities such as nursing homes, hospitals, and dental clinics could not cope with the patients due to an enormous scarcity of N95 respirators. Major American companies like Honeywell, Prestige Ameritech, and 3M have started the production of N95 respirators at a fast pace to cope with the immense shortage of N95 respirators.
In accordance with the requests of the healthcare facilities of the United States, these companies have sped up the process of the production of N95 respirators. All of this has been done by these companies to take care of the healthcare providers, who are putting their lives on the line for the sake of treating coronavirus patients. The novel coronavirus has changed the way we would live before its outbreak. Because of coronavirus, the utilization of N95 respirators has become common.
The scarcity of N95 respirators has wreaked havoc for the healthcare facilities that are treating coronavirus patients. Because of a colossal shortage of face masks and N95 respirators, healthcare providers have been urged to use N95 respirators for entire shifts and in some cases, a week. The N95 respirator had been manufactured to be used once. It must be discarded after the utilization. Because of limited supplies, healthcare workers have to reuse N95 respirators for days to ensure the availability of N95 respirators.
However, there is a multitude of ways to sterilize an N95 respirator. Sterilization of N95 respirator—also known as decontamination—is a way to physically remove contaminants, toxins, and bacteria from the surface of the N95 respirator. After the initial utilization of N95 respirators, an individual must decontaminate the N95 respirator if they want to reuse it. The utilization of an N95 respirator absorbs a myriad of airborne particulates. All of these particulates need to be removed after the use.
If you do not sterilize the N95 respirator, you may end up transferring the airborne particulates to other people; this is the reason why an N95 respirator must be decontaminated. There are numerous ways to sterilize an N95 respirator: dry heat treatment, ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, time decontamination, and steam treatment. All of these decontamination methods are different from one another, and every method takes some time to decontaminate the N95 respirator.
A plethora of people and a slew of healthcare facilities lack the equipment to decontaminate their N95 respirators through the method of ultraviolet germicidal irradiation; this sterilization method is expensive. Moreover, it is a time-consuming process as well. Therefore, the majority of the people use its alternatives that are not as time-consuming as ultraviolet germicidal irradiation is. Its alternatives are steam treatment, dry heat treatment, and time decontamination. None of these methods require complex equipment.
The cost of an N95 respirator is seven to ten dollars. You cannot reuse an N95 respirator more than five times. The only way to reuse an N95 is to decontaminate it after utilization. If you repetitively decontaminate it, you would be able to use the N95 respirator. Therefore, by reusing the N95 respirator, you are saving five times the price of the N95 respirator you purchased—which is a big amount. Therefore, the utilization of N95 respirators does save you some money.
However, a new N95 respirator is always a better option than a decontaminated N95 respirator, but a decontaminated N95 respirator is effective at the filtration of coronavirus airborne particulates.
The frontline healthcare workers have to reuse their N95 respirators because of a limited amount of N95 respirators and surgical masks. Since the supplies are limited, people have to reuse their N95 respirators by sterilizing them. The price of an N95 respirator is around eight dollars. You are saving more than five times the amount you used to purchase the N95 respirator. Therefore, the reuse of an N95 respirator does save you money.