Just like the regular surgical masks, N95 respirators are also a part of the long list of Personal protective equipment worn to protect one's self, especially healthcare workers from getting contaminated by airborne particles and liquids. Although both are similar in their functionality and are regulated by the FDA, there's a huge difference between the average surgical mask and N95 respirators.
When a surgical mask is used in an environment, it acts as a physical barrier, blocking potential contaminants from entering the mouth and nose of the wearer. However, this disposable piece of PPE is a loose-fitting device, whose edges are not designed to seal the nose and mouth tightly. Therefore, it leaves the wearer exposed to a certain degree of contamination.
N95 respirators, on the other hand, were designed to correct the lapses of a surgical mask. They are respiratory protective devices whose edges are designed to tightly form a seal around the mouth and nose of the wearer. Apart from a design that guarantees a very close facial fit, N95 respirators filter airborne particles very efficiently.
With filters designed at the front of the mask, users can comfortably breathe in filtered air, ultimately reducing their exposure to airborne contaminants. N95 respirator masks are mostly recommended for healthcare workers.
There are several types of N95 respirators available online and in stores. However, this article will focus on just two models, detailing their functionalities and the critical difference.
N95 Respirator 3M Model 8210 Vs N95 Respirator 3M Model 1860
The 3M model 8210 is a standard N95 respirator while the 3M model 1860 is a surgical N95 respirator. Both particulate respirators are tested and approved by the U.S National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to have a filtration efficiency of 95% against non-oil particles.
What exactly is the key difference between both N95 respirators?
The 3M model 8210 prevents the user from inhaling contaminated particles in an environment but has little or no fluid resistance. In a medical scenario where healthcare workers are to perform tasks like non-emergency patient evaluation which do not involve surgical procedures, the potential hazards mostly considered is airborne droplets containing bacteria and viruses from sneezes and coughs. In this case, the 3M 8210 standard N95 respirator can effectively work as a PPE.
The 3M model 1860 not only prevents the user from inhaling particles, but it also reduces the particles expelled by the user into the environment. This surgical N95 respirator is certified as a medical device by both NIOSH and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
It also meets the ASTM F1862 standard test method, which is a method for certifying resistance of medical face masks to penetration by synthetic blood. Therefore, it possesses a high fluid resistance and can withstand high pressures of synthetic blood directed at it.
In a scenario where healthcare workers are undergoing a surgical operation that may expose them to high-pressure streams of bodily fluid (blood), the 3M model 1860 N95 surgical respirator is the ideal choice.
In light of the information above, it is safe to say that the 3M model 1860 is the stronger of both N95 respirators, and an optimal choice for preventing airborne transmission and resisting fluid splash.