Masks like the N95 mask is the most in-demand mask among medical and construction professionals. The N95 mask is also the most trusted mask to be worn in the pandemic. This demand and trust can be deeply rooted in the protection that the N95 mask is offering.

How does an N95 mask work?

The N95 mask is a facepiece respirator that protects the wearer from any form of microbial contamination. The N means that the N95 mask is not oil resistant and the 95 means that the filtration ability is up to 95 %. The N95 mask is regulated and approved by the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The N95 mask has a nose clip that creates a tight seal around the area of the nose and mouth. Unlike the commercial single-use mask and the surgical mask, the N95 mask is not prone to any form of leakage and bacterial contamination.

The most common model of the N95 mask is the unvalved model. This is because the valve that is on the valved model of the N95 mask does not filter the air that is exhaled by the wearer. With this, the unvalved model of the N95 mask is commonly used in hospitals; which are known to have sanitary areas.

The N95 mask works by filtering up 95% of aerosol particles such as mist, dust, smoke, and breath that may contain strains of bacteria and viruses.

Particles that the N95 mask can filter

With the given function of the N95 mask, this proceeds to the idea as to what particles do the N95 mask filter. Not all particles can be filtered by the N95 mask. This is in accordance with their size.

  • Bacteria

In a study, the performance of the N95 mask as far as effectiveness infiltration was tested. In their study, the N95 mask was proven to filter Staphylococcus Aureus that is one of the contributing bacteria for skin infections. Also, the N95 mask can also filter Mycobacterium tuberculosis which is a pathogenic bacteria that can cause tuberculosis. The study illustrated that the filtration efficiency of the bin filtering the Mycobacterium tuberculosis is 99.5%. In fact, both the staphylococcus and the mycobacterium are 0.3 microns in size.

  • Allergens

The N95 mask also filters several types of allergens. The most common ones are pollen, mold, and dust mites. Pollen is often carried through the air and with a size of 0.1 to 03 microns, the N95 mask can surely filter this out. Mold, just like pollen, is in the form of spores that can trigger an allergic reaction. With the non-woven fabric that the N95 mask is made of, protection is guaranteed. Dust mites are microscopic creatures that mostly thrive in old furniture and carpets. It is also advised that you wear an N95 mask while cleaning with the fear of inhaling dust mites.

  • Fumes

The N95 mask is not only popular in the medical field. Fields like Engineering, Construction, and Mining also acknowledge the protection that the N95 mask can provide. Fumes are common in these fields. This includes finer particles of cement, fumes from metallic welding rod, and oil smoke. These are all volatile particles that are 0.3 microns in size, which is the filtering size of the N95 mask. The N95 mask can protect the wearer from inhaling these fumes, reducing toxic gas inhalation or any form of breathing difficulty from inhaling these gases.

  • Smog

Smog is a combination of smoke and fog. A fog may be pleasing to watch but once it gets mixed with smoke, it becomes dangerous. The N95 mask can filter out smog because smog is only about 0.1 microns in size. Therefore, the N95 mask can provide the wearer protection. Smog is commonly found in urban areas that are most likely to have heavy traffic systems. Aside from the smog, the N95 mask is also capable of filtering out tobacco smoke which is the leading cause of lung cancer, tuberculosis, and emphysema.

  • Viruses

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the N95 mask became a staple of protection against viral strains. In the earlier 2000s, outbreaks like the SARS (2003), AH1N1 (2009), and Mers-CoV (2015) made the popularity of the N95 mask to be more known. These outbreaks were caused by viruses.  These viruses were infectious and resulted in the deaths of people from across those years. The N95 mask was used to protect people working in the medical field from these viruses. However, in the case of the Covid-19, some strains are filtered and some are not. So it is not generally a huge guarantee that the N95 mask can filter more particles of the covid-19.

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. People do not need the N95 mask because it is only reserved for those who are working at the frontlines.

If you are not a front liner, you have other mask alternatives other than the N95 mask. You can use the KN95 mask from China and the FFP2 from the European Union. These masks work exactly like the N95 mask. Other alternatives include a medical-grade level 3 surgical mask. The medical-grade level 3 surgical mask is proven to filter up 98 percent of particles. However, unlike the N95 mask, this mask is prone to leakage. But it is still effective. 

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