Masks have been a staple in most households. This is because masks have been proven to decrease contagion. But not all masks are created equal.
Before the worldwide covid-19 outbreak, the demand for the N95 mask had expanded across the Pacific and the Australian continent. Mayon Volcano erupted in the Philippines and the wildfires cost Australians to lose millions. With the pandemic, the demand for the N95 mask continues to expand; knowing that there is no exact date as to when the pandemic will end.
Why the N95 mask?
The N95 mask has its reputation built as the most trusted face mask to be worn in this pandemic. Regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH), the credibility of the N95 mask in protecting anyone who wears this mask is guaranteed. The N95 mask is able to filter up to 95% of bacteria that are 3.0 microns in size and particles that are 0.1 microns in size.
With the pandemic, the N95 mask is a proven mode of protection. With its ability to filter a high percentage of particles, wearing an N95 mask guarantees safety. The N95 mask is a part of the triad of safety that medical personnel follows along with the face shield and the bodysuit. It is important for people to know the protection they are getting with the mask they are wearing.
The issue with the N95 mask
Since the start of the pandemic, people from all across the globe had practiced hoarding and storing masks like the N95 mask. Another reason for the scarcity of the N95 mask is its overwhelming demand. The demand for the N95 mask had swollen since the start of the pandemic. That is why leading companies that produce the N95 mask are constantly making efforts to meet international demand.
This is why people have resorted to buying alternatives to the N95 mask due to overwhelming demands. Speaking of alternatives, a new counterpart of the N95 mask is on the rise. This is the TEAL respirator.
What is the TEAL respirator?
TEAL stands for Transparent, Elastomeric, Adaptable, Long-lasting Respirator, produced by the team from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This respirator is designed to provide a reusable mask comparative to the abilities of the famous N95 mask. With the introduction of sensors to indicate the wearer if the mask is worn appropriately, TEAL so far has reported a 100% success in 40 participants as far as fit, breathability, and filtration are concerned.
This is in response to the upsurge in the demand for the N95 mask in the global market. The TEAL respirator is engineered with added convenience. The TEAL respirator is the first-ever elastomeric mask of its kind, compared to the polypropylene material of the N95 mask.
What does the TEAL respirator do?
The TEAL respirator functions like the N95 mask. Filtration, Breathability, Comfort, and Convenience; all qualities of the N95 mask, the TEAL respirator has. However, the TEAL respirator is designed to be reused for countless occasions. This puts the N95 mask at a slight disadvantage since the N95 mask is only good for one-time use. Another great deal from the TEAL respirator is that it allows lip visualization. This aids communication and expression; a factor that the N95 mask is lacking.
Could the TEAL respirator be decontaminated?
Since the aim of the team is to produce a reusable mask comparable to the abilities of the N95 mask, the TEAL respirator can be decontaminated like the N95 mask. The team in fact tested several decontamination methods to prove that the TEAL respirator can be decontaminated a number of times. Like the N95 mask, methods like microwaving, UV sterilization, dry heat sterilization were tried. The TEAL respirator only had recorded a minimal change to its elasticity after continuous decontamination.
Could the TEAL respirator be a new alternative to the N95 mask?
With the on-going series of tests, the TEAL respirator can be a candidate as a new alternative to the N95 mask. However, the respirator was tested with only a small sample size. Therefore, it needs further validation in an even bigger sample size. Also, to approve the TEAL respirator for healthcare utilization, the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) will be conducting a series of tests for the TEAL respirator. NIOSH also regulates the N95 mask.
Since the TEAL respirator needs further validation, consumers can still resort to these following alternatives of the N95 mask.
- China’s KN95 functions like the N95 mask. As far as Filtration, Fit, Comfort, and Convenience are concerned, the KN95 mask is something that people should also consider utilizing. It is the Chinese counterpart of the American N95 mask.
- The FFP series from the European Union is at par with the N95 mask. With a filtration ability of 94% (FFP2) and 99%, (FFP3), they can be a reliable alternative to the N95 mask. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has included these foreign masks as an alternative to the N95 mask, along with the Kn95 of China. However, the FFP2 is more breathable than the FFP3.
- The ASTM level 1 surgical mask is also one alternative that can be used. Its filtration ability also matches the N95 mask with 95% filtration ability. Though ASTM levels 2 and 3 have higher filtration ability, they can be difficult to breathe with. The ASTM level 1 surgical mask is way breathable than the other two levels.
Innovations like the TEAL respirator and the N95 mask signify the ingenuity that can potentially save humankind. Soon, people can use the TEAL respirator as one of humanity’s newest alternatives to the N95 mask.