What is the CDC’s recommendation for dealing with broken N95 masks?

As the year comes to an end, this pandemic is still prevalent. Thousands of cases continue to add every day. Millions of people did not luckily survive. While some are holding on for dear life not to get contaminated. This is exactly the reason why masks are created. Masks have proven themselves useful and have been protecting people ever since.

Mask mandates were then promulgated and put into action. This is to lessen the progression of new cases surging from day today. But which mask is the most recommended?

The N95 mask is the most recommended mask by medical professionals. With its capability of filtering airborne particles up to 95%, an N95 mask poses an efficient way of providing protection to anyone who wears this. Other fields like Engineering and Construction trust the N95 mask as well. This is for a fact that an N95 mask is capable of filtering particles like fine sand, sawdust, dust particles, cement, and volatile gases. This makes the N95 mask the most in-demand mask?

But why?

Before the pandemic, there were about a thousand pieces of the N95 mask that are used every day. But when the pandemic happened, there are about a million pieces of the N95 mask that are used every day.  Experts even projected that the number of the N95 mask that will be used will continue to skyrocket if the pandemic is not yet resolved globally.

Prior to distribution, masks like the N95 mask should be regulated and checked by authorities. This is to ensure that masks like the N95 mask is of top quality and can provide the protection it offers. Authorities like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety are the ones responsible for the regulation and quality assurance of the N95 mask. Make sure that the N95 mask that you are using is FDA and NIOSH approved. If not, do not use it.

Despite being the most in-demand and the most recommended, the N95 mask has an issue aside from scarcity. Its breakability. There are N95 masks that can easily break. This breakability of the N95 mask can be linked to two causes.

What causes the N95 mask to break?

Like a flower, an N95 mask is a delicate tool. The N95 mask must be handled with care and no contamination possible. However, there are instances that the N95 mask breaks.

The N95 mask breaks if it is worn for an extended period of time. The N95 mask has only a period where it functions well. Using the N95 mask for longer periods can deteriorate the mask’s fit and filtration. The straps and the nose fit become loose. The filtration efficiency weakens.

Another reason is through production. Since N95 mask companies are trying their best to meet the global demand for the mask, production became rapid. Through the filtration of the N95 mask is ensured, the physical attributes of the mask might be ignored and overlooked. This is why some N95 masks online are defective.

What is the recommendation of the CDC for dealing with broken N95 masks?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention did not exactly stipulate a recommendation for dealing with a broken N95 mask. However, CDC created a list for hospitals to use in order to lengthen the supply for N95 masks where the mask is experiencing a shortage.

What the CDC did recommend is utilizing foreign facepiece respirators. These foreign facepiece respirators should be on par with the N95 mask in terms of performance. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the regulator of the N95 mask, does not test these foreign facepiece respirators. Instead, they have to follow these guidelines:

  • Masks that were supplied from non-NIOSH approved manufacturers but observed the requirements of the nations that are listed in the FDA EUA must obtain a certification of consent by a legitimate laboratory endorsing that the mask meets the standards stipulated by CDC.
  • Masks that are supplied from non-NIOSH approved manufacturers but do not have any certification of consent from a legitimate laboratory should be utilized in immediate situations when an N95 mask is unavailable.
  • Masks that are manufactured from a NIOSH approved manufacturer like the N95 mask, which distributes masks that subscribe to a variety of standards from various countries must secure a publicized level of safety once the appropriate fit is attained.

Why would CDC recommend foreign facepiece respirators instead of mending the broken N95 masks?

Like the surgical mask, the N95 mask is fragile. The straps can be the point of the N95 mask’s breakability. But it does not mean the N95 mask filters are defective. The fit of the N95 mask is the one at risk.

CDC would not most likely recommend mending the defective N95 mask because the straps are already measured and calculated to fit the head. A slight change in the length of these straps can disrupt the ergonomic correctness of the N95 mask. This slight change can be a potential outlet for contamination.

Also, there have been no studies certifying the effectiveness of the mended N95 mask. It would take a series of studies before the mended N95 mask would be recommended by the CDC.

What should people do if they encounter defective N95 masks?

People should report it to a professional or a volunteer. Earlier this year, there have been volunteers that offer services such as mending defective N95 masks. In this way, N95 masks can still be used and proposed.

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