The N95 mask has become an important part of our daily lives. Ever since the novel coronavirus pandemic struck, we have been looking for protection against the virus. Any antiviral tool we can use for virus protection is used at all costs. Think face shields, kn95 mask, n95 masks, and n95 respirators like 1860, 3M 8210, 3M 8511, and other 3M N95 masks.
In the United States, the N95 mask shortage has become a problem. Yet, people are looking to buy an N95 mask online or wherever they can be found for sale. So should you consider buying a medical face mask, a reusable surgical mask, or a disposable face mask? The answer depends on your work environment and exposure.
You need adequate filter efficiency and the best face mask for its uses is the N95 mask because it can filter at least 95 percent of hazardous particulates in smoke, dust, and air. Meanwhile, other face mask types cannot do so, but only large particulates can be blocked by such face masks.
Furthermore, who should use the N95 mask? The government of the USA has already prioritized healthcare workers to be the first ones to be equipped with an N95 mask. As such, bulk orders are granted to hospitals, sometimes at wholesale prices.
Keep in mind, you can get the flu without adequate protection from an N95 mask. If you are in the healthcare industry, getting fitted for the right N95 mask size is a must. With a flimsy N95 mask, virus protection is very little or mediocre.
What is the N95 mask made of?
Now, let us look into the basics of the N95 mask that has made it a commonplace during the COVID-19 pandemic. The N95 mask is unlike other face masks. The N95 mask has a filtering facepiece and is further regulated by the NIOSH or National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
An increase in N95 mask production has already been initiated. This is in answer to the N95 mask shortage that has put many people, especially healthcare frontline workers at risk of contracting the illness.
Now, to decode your N95 mask features, first find the N on the N95 mask. This does not mean NIOSH certified, rather it stands for the respirator rating of the N95 mask, that is, it is not fit for oil-based, making it a “Non-Oil” N95 mask. This N95 mask is not resistant to oil for any given time unlike R-rated and P-rated face masks.
Now, the 95 of the N95 mask stands for the percentage of its filtration efficiency. Other face masks have 99 percent efficiency. Others with 100 efficiency come with a HEPA filter.
Another thing to know about the N95 mask is that it can filter contaminants that are 0.3 microns small. This means that large droplets as well as airborne particulates cannot pass through this type of N95 mask.
Finally, the N95 mask is equipped with a filter made of non-woven polypropylene fiber that is further electrostatically-charged to make it better at filtering out the hazardous air particles.
So, why is the N95 mask made?
Now, let us look into why this life-saving device that is the N95 mask was made? Now, prior to the N95 mask, the first face masks were introduced simply to stop smells. However, the invention of the face mask came without the acknowledgment that a facial covering can help combat bacteria and viruses floating in the air that could make us sick.
So, the first face masks were not designed to prevent contagious diseases from spreading. However, it was already believed that the air was corrupted and that plagues are in the atmosphere. So, it was believed that the foul odor or stench is the one causing the diseases. So, a plague mask was made.
The next face masks were surgical masks that looked like a handkerchief tied around the face. This face mask is unlike the N95 mask in a way that it is not designed for the filtration of airborne diseases.
How the N95 mask came to be?
Before the N95 mask of today was created, a dust respirator was already in the market. The first single-use face mask, like the N95 mask, was made of fiberglass. This made such N95 masks like face masks very stiff. Particulates began to clog up fibers that made up the face mask. This made it very difficult to breathe through the face mask. So, the N95 mask was created for better and improved breathability and ease of use.
Now before the outbreak came, Peter Tsai already developed the N95 mask we have today. Together with 3M, the top N95 mask manufacturer, a light, breathable, and properly-fitted N95 mask was created.
History of the N95 mask
The N95 mask was first a cloth facemask made during the plague, then a filter was added. Air filtration was done with polymeric fibers. This face mask was used as a single-use face mask in the nuclear industry. Later, an N95 mask-like product was made akin to bra cups with ribbons.
Then, the healthcare industry needed a medical standard N95 mask with virus-blocking technology. That is when the University of Tennessee professor Peter Tsai created and patented the N95 mask that we use today.
However, the COVID-19 outbreak led to an N95 mask shortage, so decontamination processes needed to be learned. Today, there are places in the USA where you can send N95 mask supplies for decontamination made available again for reuse.