The N95 mask is the most trusted mask among professionals in the medical field. Simply because of its filtration ability. The name N95 in the N95 mask means the mask can filter up to 95 percent of free-floating particles in the air. These free-floating particles in the air contain microorganisms such as strains of viruses and bacteria. Aside from the medical field, workers in the construction industry use the N95 mask. It is because the N95 mask is not only capable of filtering viruses and bacteria, but it can also filter sawdust, smoke, smog, sand, finer particles of cement, volatile gases, and exhaust fumes.
With the on-going pandemic, a lot of people are using the N95 mask; especially doctors. Hospitals use up to over a million pieces of the N95 mask in the United States alone. If the pandemic continues, the number of used N95 masks will skyrocket. The pandemic created an opportunity for N95 mask distributors and manufacturers. It is an opportunity because the demand for the N95 mask skyrocketed to an overwhelming rate. Companies like 3M, the leading supplier of the N95 mask in the world, are constantly making efforts to supplement the demand for the N95 mask.
Prior to distributing the N95 mask to hospitals and to the public, it needs to be regulated and medically graded. Authorities like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) are the ones regulating the N95 mask in accordance with their standards. The standard that these authorities are appropriate for testing the efficiency of the N95 mask. The NIOSH-certified N95 mask is the one appropriate for hospitals to use.
So what does it mean if the N95 mask or even a model of the N95 mask did not make it?
The N95 masks that did not make the cut are often canceled and are not distributed to the public or even to the hospitals. It also means the following:
- The N95 mask did not reach the potential of filtering up to the required percentage;
- The N95 mask is not durable; and
- The N95 mask failed some tests required.
However, in this time of need where there is an existing shortage for the N95 mask, those masks which failed are still distributed for personal protection for the public. The masks that were not approved by authorities can still be utilized and can be used as an alternative for protection purposes; though not as effective as the standard N95 mask.
Aside from not being medically graded or even passing the standards of the FDA and NIOSH, there are other meanings as to why the N95 mask or a model of the N95 mask is canceled.
- The cost of the materials is getting expensive.
The N95 mask is made from quality materials. These materials are most likely to be imported from other sources. Manufacturers always go for what is affordable and still of top quality. However, other raw material providers of the N95 mask are pushing for an increase in their pricing. So this leads the manufacturers to increase the price of the N95 mask as well. Other options include letting the remaining stocks of the N95 mask to be sold and permanently stopping the production.
- Sales are low.
Consumers in general always want the most affordable yet of top quality. Some models of the N95 mask are quite expensive and are having low sales. With the continuous downgrade of sales, these low-selling models of the N95 mask are potentially phased out; which leads to further canceling of the production.
- The mask is low in demand.
A model of the N95 mask must be in ample demand. If it does not hit the ample demand, the production of that model of the N95 mask will eventually become low. Low demand means the product is either inefficient or the product is not convenient. People look into convenience nowadays. Low production will eventually be followed by a phase-out until it reaches discontinuation.
These are just some of the potential meanings as to why an N95 mask or a model of the N95 mask is canceled. But in this time of need, it is impossible for the N95 mask or any model of the N95 mask to be canceled. The demand for the mask is high enough to be canceled. The demand is so high that it has reached scarcity. Most stocks of the N95 mask are getting low. Even pharmacies were not expecting the N95 mask to be such a hit. Probably because people lack education as to what is the exact mask should they wear. Another factor is looting and impulsive buying. Some people are taking advantage of the opportunity to attract huge sales. This eventually leads to price gouging, which is very illegal. With the lack of education, looting, and impulsive buying, this leads to the scarcity of the mask.
The scarcity of the N95 mask, this led to potential health hazards for medical workers. Some of them are forced to reuse their N95 mask for another shift or perhaps extending the shelf life of the mask.
This is why people should leave the mask alone to medical workers. They needed it the most because of the protection it offers. Also, there are other alternatives to the N95 such as the following:
- KN95 masks
- FFP2 masks
- Medically graded surgical masks
- Cloth masks