The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a series of problems regarding medical supplies and PPE (personal protective equipment). People began to buy this product in bulk and wholesale, until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged the general public to use reusable face masks, leaving medical-grade masks to healthcare workers.

The coronavirus is a respiratory disease, therefore the transmission happens when a healthy person inhales little droplets released by an infected person through their nose or mouth when they talk, cough, or sneeze. This is why covering the nose and mouth is the main measure to be taken against the spread of this disease, and has been widely recommended around the world and the United States.

N95 respirators are considered to be the best face masks for virus protection, with antiviral properties that surgical, medical, and reusable face masks don’t have. That’s why they’ve become a widely sought out product, as well as a scarce one, due to the difficult production of the raw material the mask is made of, which is melt-blown fabric.

With these shortages going on, certain N95 respirator models are more difficult to find online than others. Here are a few.

N95 respirators: what are they?

N95 respirators are a type of respirator according to the NIOSH classification, which is the standard for respirators in the USA. Each country has a system for rating respirators, and we use the one established by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which is the institute, part of the CDC, in charge of preventing work-related injuries or illnesses.

NIOSH classifies respirators according to their resistance to oil and their filtration rate. The first characteristic is indicated with the letter N, for non-resistant, R, for resistant, and P, for oil-proof. According to this, N95 masks are not resistant to oil. Then, comes a number that indicates the percentage of minimum particulate filtration efficacy, which can be 95, 99, or 100% of all airborne particles.

So, N95 masks can filter out 95% of all non-oil based airborne particles in the air. Particles with these characteristics include dust, smoke, and certain viruses like the flu, which are all considered to be respiratory hazards in the workplace. Such particles, when inhaled during long periods and constantly, can make workers develop serious health conditions, like lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COVID-19.

All N95 masks should have the approval seal from NIOSH, to certify the respirator was tested and regulated and met all the criteria to be considered an N95 mask. If the mask doesn’t have this stamp, anyone who uses it will be at risk of inhaling the harmful particles. For medical use, N95 masks should also have approval from the Food and Drug Administration, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, an Emergency Use Authorization was granted for a lot of models. 

Rarest N95 respirator models to find online

With the shortages of medical PPE and supplies that have been happening during the last several months, particularly of N95 masks, it’s been very hard to find this face mask, even in online stores. The American government has been working to increase the production of this item to supply the emergency stockpile, but haven’t met the goal number of respirators yet.

This situation has led big companies, such as Amazon or eBay, to limit the selling of any pandemic-related item through their platforms. For example, Amazon decided to only sell medical-grade face masks, like N95 masks, through their business platform, to ensure they would only be bought by medical centers and for first responders.

So, it’s relatively hard to find N95 masks on big company websites, like Amazon, eBay, and others. 3M N95 masks, especially the models 3M 8210 and 3M 8511, can be found on very selective websites. 

Scams and counterfeit products: the other pandemic

The fear and vulnerability of the general population was the target for many ill-intentioned people. With an unknown virus, and very vague information at the beginning of the year, people began to panic-buy products, particularly online where the risk of being in contact with other people was minimized. Plus, physical stores were running out of supplies quickly.

But, the internet also became flooded with scams and other illegal activities. Taking advantage of the fear and ignorance in people, websites like Amazon and eBay were bombarded with pandemic-related listings, including KN95 masks, face shields, hand sanitizer, and more. Among the most targeted items was the N95 respirator, which has been the main product for protection during the pandemic.

Several scams have been detected online, and many people have been arrested for selling millions of non-existent N95 masks. Counterfeit products are also flooding the internet, and the main thing to avoid this is to always buy from reputable websites and brands. As we mentioned before, price gouging is another thing big companies have had to fight off, since the most affected people are healthcare workers, who are already working extremely hard to treat COVID-19 patients. 

We would like to end this informative piece by reminding our readers to always cover their nose and mouth when in public. This can be done with either reusable or disposable face masks, which can be found for sale online. But, N95 masks and other medical-grade face masks should always be prioritized for healthcare workers, and we need to do everything we can to help them in their hard work. We would also like to remind you that kids need face masks of a smaller size, since adult-sized ones don’t protect them properly. 

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