The dangers of N95 masks NOT being individually packaged

What does “N’’ in N95 stand for?

N95 respirators and surgical masks are examples of personal protective equipment that are used to protect the wearer from airborne particles According to Centre for Disease Control (CDC), the prefix “N” stands for “Not Resistant to Oil”. The “N95” designation means that when subjected to careful testing, the respirator blocks at least 95 % of very small (0.3) microns test particles. 

Why is N95 mask preferable as compared to other masks?

N95 masks are more preferable to use against COVID-19 protection as compared to other (Surgical or Cloth masks). Because they are intended to be face tight-fitted and can filter both large and small particles including aerosols.

N95 masks are tested and certified by National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to ensure that the filtering facepiece can remove at least 95% of airborne particles.

Role of N95 mask in COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 is a disease caused by the new coronavirus that emerged in China in December 2019. The most astonishing fact about coronavirus is that it is airborne and can transfer from one people to another. Social distancing and use of masks is the only solution to its control and prevention. The N95 mask plays an important role in its control.

Why is respirator required?

According to the information available the most common transmission routes for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) are through droplet transmission via direct face to face contact between patients and healthy persons. N95 respirator is a respiratory protection device designed to achieve a very close facial fit. The edges of the respirator are designed to form a seal around the mouth and nose.

Worldwide Coronavirus cases reported till now 

Total number of Corona cases reported till now is 45.1M, out of which 30.3 people have recovered. Whereas the number of deaths reported till now are so far less than the infected cases 1.18M.

If discussed with respect to the USA total cases reported are approximately 9,216,316, out of which 5,984,667 have been recovered. Whereas the number of deaths reported till now are 234,218. The death toll is very less as compared to the total number of infected people. This can be related to the use of masks in public areas. Because of the greater efficiency of N95 masks, many people have started using N95 masks, and this leads to a decrease in the number of cases.

Rules and precautions provided by FDA and NIOSH before using N95 

  • People with chronic respiratory, cardiac or other medical issues that make breathing difficult must consult doctors before using N95 respirators as they are tightly fitted. N95 can make it more difficult for the wearer to breath.
  • Some models have exhale valves that can make breathing out easier and help reduce heat build up. Such types of respirators should not be used in sterile conditions.
  • N95 are not designed for children use.
  • How to determine if the N95 respirator is NIOSH approved?

    The N95 is the most common of the seven types of the particulate filtering facepiece respirators due to its greater efficiency. There are some products that are approved by NIOSH as an N95 respirator and are also cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For convenience the surgical N95 respirators are indicated with a model number/ product line in bold text followed by FDA. The approval number on the N95 respirator can be verified by on the NIOSH Certified Equipment List (CEL) to determine if the respirator is NIOSH approved.

    Appearances may be deceiving 

    Some companies are selling N95 respirators bearing the NIOSH logo and name at low rates. But they are not originally approved by NIOSH, hence the best defense is to verify the “TC’’ number on the NIOSH table of approving filtering face pieces and if in doubt contact NIOSH. 

    Exterior Marking on NIOSH approved N95 respirator 

    If u wants to know whether the mask you are using is NIOSH approved, observe the following markings on NIOSH approved N95 respirator 

    • NIOSH approved number or TC number e.g. TC-841-XXXX. These numbers are given on the NIOSH Certified Equipment List.
    • Must observe the original NIOSH logo and note whether the NIOSH name is in block letters or not.
    • Note the filtering efficiency (95, 99, and 100) and filtering class (N, P, or R).
    • Note the model number and lot number.
    • All FDA cleared N95 are labeled “Single use”, disposable devices. If your respirator is damaged or soiled, you should remove the respirator and discard it properly.

    Packaging of N95 

    Because of the high efficiency of N95 respirators and its sensitivity, careful packaging of N95 masks is performed under very controlled conditions in order to maintain its efficiency. To avoid any type of contamination N95 masks are separately packed and are not superimposed on each other. N95 masks contain respiration valves that make it highly efficient and protective against airborne diseases. To maintain its efficiency and to avoid any damage to its respiratory valves, they are packed individually and separately. 

    What if the packaging is defective? 

    Under NIOSH and FDA regulations regarding packaging and supply of N95 respirator masks, if a single piece of N95 is found to be defective due to some issue. The supplier can contact the company and complain against the defective pieces. The company in response will supply new packs without putting any extra charges on the exchange of respirators.


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