As the number of positive cases continues to rise every day, governments across the world have imposed mask mandates. These mandates require their citizens to wear masks in public. According to a study, people’s first line of defense is wearing a mask. A mask lessens the contagion of the deadly coronavirus. It filters the air that is inhaled by the wearer. But not all masks are created the same.
Masks like the N95 mask are the most suitable mask for this pandemic. In a study conducted, N95 masks have shown efficiency in filtering the air for both inhalation and exhalation. Fewer particles were observed under a laser while the subject is breathing with the N95 mask donned. On a daily average, there are about a thousand pieces of the N95 mask utilized; that is before the pandemic had started. Now that there is a pandemic, the utility percentage skyrocketed. Hospitals from across the globe use up to a million pieces of the N95 mask on a daily basis.
What is an N95 mask?
The N95 mask has established its reputation as the most recommended mask by medical experts. With its filtration ability, the N95 mask is no stranger in the game of protection. Before the pandemic, the N95 mask has been a staple in the field of Medicine.
The term N95 is a category created by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH). NIOSH and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulate facepiece respirators like the N95 mask. The N in the N95 mask refers to the mask’s surface as ‘not oil-resistant’. The 95 in the N95 mask refers to the mask’s filtration ability.
The N95 mask is in demand because of the protection it offers. The N95 mask is both white and blue in color. The blue-colored N95 mask is the surgical type of N95 mask. The white N95 mask is the common mask seen in pharmacies and home depots.
How does an N95 mask work?
The N95 mask has straps that are wrapped around the head. The straps of the N95 mask support the mask in giving a tight seal around the area of the nose and mouth. With the tight seal, the N95 mask has little to no room for leakage. The N95 mask has an advantage compared to any other masks available on the market. Made from non-latex materials, the N95 mask is not known to induce any form of irritation. The N95 mask works both in inhalation and exhalation. Particles from the outside are filtered by the N95 mask through its engineered filter. The same goes for the particles inside the N95 mask.
There are two types of the N95 mask; the unvalved N95 mask and the valved N95 mask. Both types of N95 masks have the same filtration ability and work exactly the same. The only difference between these types of N95 masks is the valve from the valved N95 mask. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a guideline, in particular, pertaining to these types of masks.
What does the CDC do?
The Center for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) is an American organization that aims to provide safety and protection to people from both the United States and outside. They are responsible for early detection and response to health concerns that trigger public health and safety with the use of science. Equipment like the N95 mask goes under their jurisdiction prior to distribution.
CDC’s take on valved and un-valved N95 mask
The CDC recommends the unvalved N95 mask to hospitals when a surgical N95 mask is absent. It is because the un-valved N95 mask is a closed mask. Exhaled and inhaled air is both filtered. The unvalved N95 mask is suitable in sterile places inside the hospital. However, the valve is not advisable for people with respiratory conditions. Since the un-valved N95 mask is a closed mask, it would be harder for people with respiratory conditions to breathe.
Valved N95 masks are not recommended in hospitals. The valve filters the inhaled air and not the exhaled air. The air that is exhaled out of the valved N95 mask contains microorganisms that can potentially endanger any sterile environment within the hospital. The valved N95 mask is not advisable to be worn in public. While the wearer is protected, the people that surround the wearer are up for potential contagion.
With the CDC’s recommendation, the valved N95 mask is often ditched. Yet, the valved N95 mask is useful in industries like Construction and Mining. The mask is capable of protecting the wearer from dust, volatile gases, and mist.
However, the pandemic tested the companies that make the N95 mask. With its overwhelming demand, the N95 mask experiences scarcity. Another contributing factor of scarcity is the looting and impulsive buying of people for the N95 mask. 3M, the US’ leading company in producing the N95 mask, is constantly making ends meet to meet demands on a global scale. That is why it is best for people to leave the N95 mask for healthcare professionals. People do not need the N95 mask because it is only reserved for those who are working at the frontlines.
The demand for N95 masks continues to increase. With the continuous efforts of the manufacturers, it is hoped by the end of the year, the demands will be met. Manufacturers are able to produce more than the desired number of masks. Medical workers and people alike can enjoy the benefits of the mask itself.