N95 Respirator face masks are a potent form of personal protective equipment that people across the world are now rushing in stores to buy.
These masks offer a whopping minimum of 95 percent of airborne particles filtered through its filter, easily becoming one of the best ways to make sure you’re not inhaling any viral particles or bacteria in the air.
That being said, with N95 face masks skyrocketing in demand and becoming one of the most sought-after forms of PPE for medical personnel, the question still remains – how do we make sure we’re getting an N95 respirator that’s actually legit?
Let’s take a look at the checklist you can use to make sure your N95 respirator is real, effective, and most importantly, used properly.
- FDA-Approved N95 Respirator Masks
Many suppliers are trying to use approval by the FDA as a major point in their credibility building. But what you should know is that the FDA does not approve N95 respirators. Because N95 are class-2 devices, they must only receive FDA clearance.
3M, the official N95 supplier for hospitals across the country, does not use the word FDA-approved, but rather FDA-cleared. The FDA has a 2-step process in which pretty much any company can submit their product for registration before getting clearance or approval. The certificate for this registration is given in exchange for the FDA fee to register.
Some companies out there may attempt to deceive you into believing their KN95 masks are FDA-approved just because they received an FDA registration certificate. That’s strike one.
- N95 Respirators with an FDA Logo on the Box
The FDA doesn’t actually allow suppliers to put the FDA logo on a box of N95 respirators. If your Chinese KN95 has the FDA logo on its box, this means you’ve probably received non-authorized respirators. In 100 percent of the time, if the box or the label includes the logo of the FDA, then they’re DEFINITELY NOT approved by the FDA.
The Chinese Ministry of Commerce actually started further investigations into the exports so they can make them comply with FDA guidelines.
- N95 and FFP1 Respirators – Know the Difference
It’s not uncommon that a supplier might mistake FFP1 respirators for N95 respirators. This is because different governments can use different types of labeling on two things that have similar functions.
FFP1 respirators only filter up to 80 percent of airborne particles, and therefore they cannot be sold as an N95 equivalent. If you’re buying from a supplier in Europe, the closest equivalent of N95 is the FFP2 respirator, which is actually rated at 94 percent.
Keep in mind, different types of respirators are produced through different production standards. If a KN-95 respirator is produced in China, it cannot automatically be advertised as FFP2 because the means in which it was produced vary vastly.
- How to Spot Low-Quality N95 Respirators
In order to stay as protected as possible, which is the actual reason why you’re buying a respirator in the first place, you also have to understand how to differentiate between a high-quality respirator and a low-quality respirator.
Of course, you want the highest degree of protection, and with N95, you’re getting a 95 percent filtration of airborne particles. However, if the seal of your mask is poor quality or it doesn’t fit you well, this means this degree of protection is compromised and you have to know that before you even put your respirator on.
In hospitals, medical personnel usually participate in fit testing so they can guarantee a tight seal on their respirator. In this situation, poor-quality respirators can be exposed by having loose ear loops which result in a looser grip. Even if a respirator is tested in the factory it’s produced, performing a seal test would defeat the purpose of the mask, that’s why they undergo basic respirator tests and not seal tests.
That’s why it’s up to you to test the seal of your respirator because this is the number one way you can instantly spot a compromised respirator.
In hospitals, some imports of KN-95 respirators have resulted in poor-quality protection and respirators with loose elastic that can’t pass fit testing. The reason you’re seeing so many healthcare professionals with marks on their faces is precisely because of this test, and it’s done with good reason – to ensure that a respirator is high-quality.
- How to Seal Check your Respirator
To seal check your respirator, you have to breathe through it to test it for leaks. This means placing your hands against the mask, doing the tightest fit around your face that you can, and then taking a breath while feeling out the mask for any leakages of air.
- Position your hands on the respirator and take a breath. Make the respirator is fitting tightly around your face.
- Exhale, and notice if you’re experiencing any leakage from your respirator.
- If you feel air around your nose, readjust your nose piece. If you feel air around the sides of your mask, readjust the traps.
- If for some reason you cannot get a correct seal, try a different model/size.