Medical experts have suggested people wear masks that will provide them protection against the virus. The most recommended mask is the N95 mask. With the recommendation of the medical experts, people have been buying the N95 mask to the point of scarcity.
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. The term N95 is coined by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) which is a category. The N in the N95 mask means the mask is not oil resistant. The 95 in the N95 mask is the filtration ability of the mask. The N95 mask is capable of filtering particles of 0.1 microns in size and bacteria of 3.0 microns in size up to 95%.
Compared to a surgical mask, the N95 mask is a tight fitting mask. The N95 mask is able to create a tight seal on the area of the nose and the mouth. Straps on both ends of the N95 mask are wrapped around the area of the head to secure the right fit. An N95 mask is water-proof too.
The N95 mask is regulated by NIOSH and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). With these two accrediting bodies, the N95 mask is proven to be effective and safe. The fields of construction and engineering acknowledge the effectiveness of the N95 mask. Particles like dust, fine sand and cement, mists, and volatile gases are filtered by the N95 mask.
What does the CDC do?
The Center for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) is dedicated to aiming for public health and safety for Americans and other nationalities. With their jurisdiction, they are responsible as well for keeping medical equipment and apparatus like the N95 mask of top quality and do not endanger people. Before the distribution of a medical apparatus like an N95 mask, it goes for screening and testing through a standard set by the CDC
The CDC and NIOSH approved and regulated the N95 mask and are now under scarcity. This is due to the overwhelming demand in the global market. Supplies of the N95 mask are running out in Hospitals, Pharmacies, Home Depots, and even on Online platforms. As a result, alternatives are being sought. One of these alternatives is the carbon filtered mask.
What is a carbon filtered mask? What does it do?
Like normal masks like the N95 mask, a carbon filtered mask is a mask responsible for filtering airborne particles. The only difference is the carbon filter. The carbon filter is responsible for purifying the air that is inhaled by the wearer. Airborne particles are adsorbed by the carbon filter while purifying the air around the area.
What does CDC say about carbon filtered masks?
February 29th of this year when CDC published a guideline that concerns the utility of foreign facepiece respirators that are at par with the NIOSH-approved N95 mask. Within this guideline, carbon filtered masks are not included in the list. Other masks, however, like the KN95 the FFP series are included on the list.
Despite the exclusion, is it safe to wear a carbon filtered mask?
Yes, it is still safe to use. Activated carbon has already proven its efficiency acting as agents in purification and cleaning. Primarily, carbon filtered masks are used in highly urbanized areas where pollution is severe. The activated carbon present in the mask does the purification side. The efficiency of the carbon filtered mask is still tested and proven through studies.
Would a carbon filtered mask be an alternative to the N95 mask?
Technically, the carbon filter does not add or contribute to the efficiency of the mask itself. It simply purifies the air that is inhaled by the wearer while trapping airborne particles through adsorption. Air is a little cleaner and safer but it does not make any difference to the filtration ability of the mask. The N95 mask and the carbon filtered mask both aim to provide protection to the wearer.
Since the carbon filtered mask is still questionable what could be other potential alternatives to the N95 mask?
The pandemic made the N95 mask scarce. With its overwhelming demand, the N95 mask is running short in hospitals. Other suppliers like pharmacies and home depots are having a hard time looking into supplies of the N95 mask. Online platforms have yet to restock the N95 mask since the expression of scarcity. Other than carbon filtered masks, there are other alternatives to the N95 mask:
The KN95 mask from China functions the same as the N95 mask. Filtration, Fit, Comfort, and Convenience, the KN95 mask is something that people should also consider using. It is in fact the Chinese counterpart of the American N95 mask.
The FFP series from the European Union also is at par with the N95 mask. With a filtration ability of 94% for FFP2 and 99%, for FFP3 they can be a reliable alternative to the N95 mask. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has included these foreign masks as an alternative to the N95 mask, along with the Kn95 of China.
The ASTM level 1 surgical mask is also one alternative that can be used. Its filtration ability also matches the N95 mask with 95% filtration ability. Though ASTM levels 2 and 3 have higher filtration ability, they can be a little uncomfortable to wear due to its breathability. The ASTM level 1 surgical mask is way breathable than the other two levels.