Masks nowadays have been a staple in each and every household. Everywhere you go, you can see people wearing them. Leaving the house without them being mounted is like stepping into an opportunity of suffering and death.

In light of the most recent events in the world, wearing masks like the N95 mask is mandatory for most nations. The N95 mask is medically graded and approved by authorities. With the approval of authorities like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH), the N95 mask that you brought from your nearest home depot or pharmacy is surely regulated and is guaranteed to provide the protection you need.

The N95 mask is guaranteed to filter 95% of the aerosol particles like dust, smoke, even strains of bacteria and viruses that can potentially trigger a pandemic; like the ones that everyone is having. You might be wondering why there are N95 mask models that have valves and the other N95 mask models do not have any valves at all.  Both models of the N95 mask have specific functions and uses. Also, both of the models are specified to a particular field; since the N95 mask has gained popularity in the fields of Medicine, Engineering, and Construction.

Functions of the valved N95 mask

The valve that you see in some N95 mask models is not there for decoration. It actually has a purpose. The correct and complete term for that valve is a respiratory valve or sometimes called an exhalation valve. From the term itself, its primary function is to aid the wearer of the N95 mask in their breathing. The exhalation valve lessens the struggle of exhaling, making it easy to breathe. Air flows freely from in and out of the N95 mask without accumulating humidity on the inside. The valve is made of medical-grade plastic and is a one-way valve that aids breathing.

So most likely, the valved N95 mask acts like the usual N95 mask that helps in reducing particle exposure like bacteria, smoke, and viruses.

Issues with the valved N95 mask

Despite the protection that the N95 mask is made for, those N95 mask models with valves may not be an efficient choice. You might want to take a look at these issues in relation to the N95 mask models with valves.

  • The valve of the N95 mask is one-way.

The respiratory valve is a one-way valve. Meaning, it filters the air that you are inhaling. But what about the air that you are exhaling? It is not filtered. The valve of this N95 mask is closed during inhalation and it opens during exhalation. And the air that people exhale contains bacteria and other microorganisms.

  • This model of the N95 mask Is not good for the medical environment

As mentioned in the first issue, the air that people exhale is not filtered and contains microorganisms. Therefore, sanitized environments in the hospital require those N95 mask models with no valves. The unfiltered air from the N95 mask with a valve is released to the sterile environment, making it threatening and unsafe.

  • This particular model of the N95 mask is safe but dangerous.

Wearing an N95 mask is actually safe, given its reputation. However, wearing an N95 mask with a respiratory valve can pose a danger to the pandemic. A lot of government units are prohibiting their constituents from wearing this specific model of the N95 mask.

Which N95 mask to avoid? Which ones to wear?

3M, the world’s largest manufacturing company for the N95 mask, is also the leading company for the said mask. The company had created several varieties of the N95 mask, both with and without valves. 3M uses codes for the N95 mask and you should be aware of these codes. These codes will tell you what models of the N95 mask that have valves in them.

3M 8515, Aura Particulate Respirator 06923+ Gen 3, 3M 8511, 3M 8210V, 3M 8812, 3M 8822, and 3M 8293 are some of the models of the N95 mask that have respirator or exhalation valves. The 3M 8205, 8247, 9913, 1870+, 1860, the 1860S, 1804S, and 9542A are some of the models of the N95 mask that do not have respiratory or exhalation valves.

If you have trouble in familiarizing the codes for the N95 mask, you can check the website of 3M for more illustrative models of the N95 mask, both with and without valves.

What if you have purchased an N95 mask that has a valve, what should you do?

The best thing to do with your purchased N95 mask with a valve is to wear it and top it with a surgical mask. The surgical mask will be the one to filter the air in going out. The said mask is able to reduce bacterial transmission, though not as effective as the medical-grade N95 mask. If you are thinking of placing an adhesive tape over the exhalation valve of your N95 mask, stop. Putting an adhesive tape will only make your breathing cycle difficult. 

Given all the suggestions and the warnings regarding the valved N95 mask, it is always best to leave these types of masks to doctors and nurses who needed it the most. They are the ones that are on the frontlines, saving people from the deadly virus. Might as well give them the protection that these masks offer.

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