Masks like the N95 mask are proven to be the most effective mask to be worn in this pandemic. Medical experts have been recommending the N95 mask to be used by people due to its capacity to filter airborne particles that can potentially harm individuals.
The N95 mask is popular in the field of Medicine. Medical health workers trust the unvalved N95 mask. Because the valved N95 mask can pollute a sterile field. The valved N95 mask is popular in the fields of Construction, Engineering, and Mining. The valve from the valved N95 mask can help workers in this field in their breathing. Particles are filtered by the valve, providing cleaner air upon inhalation. Also, the valved N95 mask reduces the risk of heat accumulation inside the N95 mask.
The N95 mask cemented its popularity over time. An N95 mask is way better than a surgical mask. The N95 mask is able to filter 95% particles in the air while a surgical mask is able to filter less. Also, the N95 mask is able to decrease the chances of leakage due to the tight seal around the area of the nose and mouth.
Prior to the start of the pandemic, the N95 mask has been a demand. Natural phenomena occurred in countries like Australia and the Philippines. Australia had wildfires across the county while the Philippines had a volcanic eruption that spewed ashes and affected its neighboring towns and cities. The N95 mask came in handy due to its filtration ability. The N95 mask is able to filter particles like ashes, smoke, smog, even volcanic ash, which is fatal once inhaled, is filtered.
With the pandemic, the demand for the N95 mask had skyrocketed. As the number of positive cases increased each day, the demand for the N95 mask had grown exponentially; from thousands to million pieces of the N95 mask. Hospitals are the ones using the N95 mask on a daily basis. Experts even projected that a total of 14 million pieces of the N95 mask will be needed in the United States alone if the pandemic is not controlled.
This is why people have resulted in alternatives for the N95 mask. Usually, the masks like the N95 mask are made from polypropylene without any latex material mixed while making the mask. The N95 mask itself acts as a filter. Another variant of masks has entered the market. The masks that have been added with activated carbon are now being offered in markets. These masks are gray in color compared to an N95 mask which has a standard of white and blue.
What is Activated Carbon?
Activated carbon or also known as activated charcoal, this chemical is a processed carbon. Usually, activated carbon originated from charcoal. It is processed to achieve an elevated microporosity. This is chemically treated to intensify adsorption. Once adsorption levels are heightened, molecules of both gas and liquid are easily attached to the activated carbon.
What are the uses of Activated Carbon?
Activated Carbon has been used over the course of the times. This has been used as an agent in water purification, whitening agent for teeth, poison treatment through oral consumption, and many more.
What about a mask that has a carbon filter? What does it do?
Simply, it is still a mask; with a carbon filter. The usual work of a mask is to filter both particles of 0.1 microns in size and bacteria of 3.0 microns in size. A mask with a carbon filter is a little different. The carbon filter aids in the purification and adsorption of airborne particles. Airborne particles are then attached to the carbon filter; trapped and filtered.
Should you be wearing a carbon filtered mask?
Although a carbon filter can aid in adsorption and purification, it does not change the efficiency of a mask in filtering particles. A mask still remains to filter particles up to a target percentage. A carbon filter is there to purify the air around the area. So with or without the carbon filter, the mask is still functional. The carbon filter is only acting as a supporting agent in air purification.
Would a carbon filtered mask be an alternative to the N95 mask?
Yes, potentially. Because a carbon filtered mask is able to aid air purification. But it does not directly create an impact or a contribution to the filtration efficiency of the mask. It simply filters out particles, making the air that you inhale cleaner and a little safer. The N95 mask and the carbon filtered mask both have the motive of providing protection to its wearer.
The pandemic made the N95 mask scarce. With its overwhelming demand, the N95 mask is running short in hospitals. Other suppliers like pharmacies and home depots are having a hard time looking into supplies of the N95 mask. Online platforms have yet to restock the N95 mask since the expression of scarcity. Other than carbon filtered masks, there are other alternatives to the N95 mask:
- The KN95 mask from China functions the same as the N95 mask. Filtration, Fit, Comfort, and Convenience, the KN95 mask is something that people should also consider using. It is in fact the Chinese counterpart of the American N95 mask.
- FFP2 and FFP3 masks from the European Union also are at par with the N95 mask. With a filtration ability of 94% and 99%, it can be a reliable alternative to the N95 mask. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a guideline concerning foreign masks as an alternative to the N95 mask, and these two masks make it to the list.
- 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 a little uncomfortable to wear due to its breathability. The ASTM level 1 surgical mask is way breathable than the other two levels.