The COVID-19 pandemic has been hitting the world for over six months now. This new type of coronavirus has been called the SARS-CoV-2 and, like other species of coronaviruses, it causes an infection primarily in the respiratory tract. However, even though the size of this group is small, there are high-risk populations in which the virus can be deadly.
This is why it’s very important to prevent the spread of this virus as much as possible, because if too many people get infected at once, the number of people with severe illness will increase as well. Since the virus is spread through droplets released when people cough, sneeze, or talk, covering the mouth and nose is extremely important to prevent the spread.
People who are older, suffer from diabetes or cardiovascular disease, are immunocompromised, or have any other comorbidity, are at high risk of suffering from a severe form of COVID-19. The virus can severely affect the lungs, but it can also invade and cause failure in other organs like the heart or the kidney.
It’s no secret that face masks, be it disposable face masks like medical or surgical face masks, or reusable ones, have been a big part of our 2020. N95 masks in particular have been at the forefront of the pandemic, and their production is being ramped to meet the needs of the world. Let’s take a closer look at them, and which are the biggest plants that produce them in the United States.
N95 masks are a type of respirator according to the classification of respirators established by NIOSH, the acronym for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. This institution is in charge of the prevention of occupational injuries and illnesses in the USA, that’s why they regulate respirators and classify them.
The classification takes into consideration two main characteristics: oil resistance and minimum particulate filtration efficacy. These two properties are reflected in the name of the respirator. For oil resistance, the letter N, R, and P are used, indicating that the respirator is not resistant, resistant, and oil-proof, respectively. The minimum particulate filtration efficacy is indicated with a number, which can be 95, 99, and 100%.
In this classification, N95 respirators are any respirator that isn’t resistant to oil and filters out 95% of all airborne particles, which are particles with a diameter of 0.3 micrometers. N95 masks are good to filter out non-oil based airborne particles, including smoke, dust, and viruses like the one that causes the flu or COVID-19. This makes N95 respirators one of the best face masks for virus protection, superior to surgical or medical face masks.
N95 masks are usually used as PPE (personal protective equipment) in work settings with respiratory hazards. These are particles that, when inhaled during prolonged periods and constantly, can damage the airways, leading to serious health conditions like lung cancer or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
All N95 masks need to have an approval seal by NIOSH to be considered a legitimate N95 mask. If the mask doesn’t have this label, it wasn’t regulated by the institution, and you can’t be sure that the mask meets the criteria to offer protection against these harmful particles, including the antiviral protection. Anyone who uses these masks is in danger of inhaling dangerous particles.
The NIOSH approval only works for N95 masks who are intended for non-medical uses. To be used as medical PPE by healthcare workers, N95 masks need additional approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But, since we are in an emergency with the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of N95 mask models that weren’t previously regulated by them have been granted with an emergency use authorization by the FDA.
The biggest N95 mask plants in the United States
By now, it’s well known that 3M is the number one manufacturer of N95 masks not only in the USA but the entire world. They’re an American company specialized in producing PPE in many different industries. Right now, they’ve become the main manufacturer of medical supplies and N95 masks in the world amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Based in Maplewood, Minnesota, 3M has factories all over the world, especially in Asia. Since the pandemic began at the beginning of the year, 3M have doubled their production of N95 masks. Their goal is to increase it even further and reach 2 billion N95 masks produced per year. Right now, some of their most popular models of 3M N95 masks include 3M 8210 and 3M 8511.
As an American company, their main focus has been on increasing the production inside the USA, as part of their contribution to help the country face the pandemic. But, 3M has also been helping in other areas to help with the COVID-19 pandemic.
They’ve worked with governments, agencies, and distributors to make sure communities in need are receiving the supplies needed. They’ve also been a big supporter of research, working with universities, institutions, and other experts to help solve the main problems that have come from the pandemic.
Their biggest N95 mask plant right now is located in Knoxville, Iowa, where they produce over 12,000 items as well.
If you’re looking for protective equipment you can buy in bulk or wholesale, there are a lot of options for sale online. You can find face shields, KN95 masks, and many different types of reusable and disposable face masks, with options in a smaller size for kids as well. Remember to always stay safe during this difficult time!