How to attain a manufacturing grant for N95 respirators

The coronavirus is a general term used for a new type of virus discovered at the end of last year. The SARS-CoV-2 is a new species from the genus of coronavirus, which has been known to infect and cause respiratory infections in humans. But, this new virus has been behaving a little differently than other coronaviruses and has been proven to be more deadly.

After more than six months of a pandemic, where people have been in isolation, implementing social distancing and hygiene rules, and wearing face masks, it’s safe to say that we’re experiencing a shift in the way we will socialize, work, and live for a while. Face masks and coverings have been at the center of this year, and we have become very familiar with them.

The protagonist, without a doubt, has been the N95 mask. This particular disposable face mask, deemed the best for virus protection, has been scarce in many parts of the world, particularly the United States, for most of the year. With many efforts to prevent this from happening, it seems like shortages of medical supplies, in particular this face mask, was imminent since the disease became a pandemic.

Collapsed healthcare centers have been a big concern, and healthcare workers working without the proper protection is a problem we need to find a solution to. The increase in the production of this face mask is a priority, but manufacturers might wonder how they could start producing them. Here’s how you can attain a grant for manufacturing N95 respirators.

N95 respirators: what are they?

N95 respirators are a very particular and specific type of disposable face mask. They’re different from regular medical or surgical face masks, and they offer more antiviral properties. You might wonder where the name comes from, and it’s actually from the USA’s classification system for respirators, established by NIOSH.

NIOSH is an acronym that stands for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. This institution has the responsibility of taking measures and making recommendations to prevent work-related injuries or illnesses. As a part of their efforts, they are in charge of regulating respirators, which are an essential part of the PPE in many work settings.

For example, in some workplaces like mining or construction sites, workers are constantly and repeatedly exposed to particles known as respiratory hazards. These particles include coal smoke, dust, and bioaerosols, including viruses like the flu or the coronavirus. Prolonged exposure to them can lead to severe health issues, including lung cancer, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), or the recently discovered COVID-19.

The classification established by NIOSH has two characteristics for naming respirators:

  • Resistance to oil: it’s at the beginning of the group name, and is indicated by a letter that can be either N, for not resistant, R, for resistant, and P, for oil-proof. According to this, N95 respirators are not resistant to oil.
  • Minimum particulate filtration efficacy: it’s the second half of the name, and it’s indicated by a percentage number, which can be 95, 99, or 100%. N95 respirators can filter out at least 95% of all airborne particles contained in the air, which are the ones with a diameter of 0.3 micrometers.

This makes N95 masks the best for non-oil based particles, just like viruses, smoke, or dust. So, N95 respirators are used in a wide variety of work settings, and not only the medical one.

N95 masks need to have a seal of approval by NIOSH, to make sure the mask has been properly tested and regulated. If the mask doesn’t contain this approval seal, anyone who uses it is at risk of inhaling these harmful particles, since it was probably not regulated correctly. For medical use, these masks need additional approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but a special Emergency Use Authorization has been granted to a lot of models that weren’t previously approved by them.

Right now, these face masks are critical for the proper protection of our healthcare workers. At the beginning of the pandemic, many started to buy them in bulk or wholesale, but now we know the general public should use other options to make sure these medical-grade masks can reach first responders and healthcare workers. Some of these options include KN95 masks, reusable cloth masks, and surgical masks, which can all be paired with face shields.

How to attain a manufacturing grant for N95 respirators

Right now, N95 respirators are a key product for the fight against the pandemic. As we have mentioned, they are the best antiviral face mask and are the most effective for protection against the coronavirus. This is why efforts are focused greatly on the increase in their production, since they have been scarce since the pandemic began, due to the difficult process of manufacturing.

This is why finding a state grant could be fairly easy. It’s just a matter of researching which options are available to you according to your location and meeting the application requirements for the grant. Usually, it will be required for the masks to have the NIOSH certification, and to meet all the criteria and standards for respirators in the USA.

Grants for manufacturing N95 masks have been given during the last several months. More recently, the Massachusetts Manufacturing Response Team has awarded $6.5 million in grants to 13 local organizations to help in the production of any pandemic-related products, including N95 masks, personal protective equipment, testing kits, and others.

N95 masks are available for sale online, with the most popular ones being 3M N95 masks like the 3M 8210 and 3M 8511. Remember that kids need a smaller size, since they have a smaller face, so bigger face masks don’t protect them.

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