You may have read about N95 Masks, but what is the difference between them and other respirators? N95 Masks offer the highest protection level possible, blocking out particles as small as 0.3 microns. Other masks and cloth coverings offer much less protection. Here are some things to consider when buying an N95 mask:
KN95 masks block out 0.3-micron particles
N95 masks are the industry’s gold standard for bioterrorism protection. They block a high percentage of 0.3-micron particles and are made by several manufacturers. N95 masks use a unique electrostatic filter that is 95% effective in blocking these particles. The filter blocks these particles at the atomic level. It is important to know that N95 masks are not available to the general public, and health care workers can only purchase them through the medical profession. The masks are only required to be worn a single time. Health care workers and medical professionals must also be trained in proper usage of N95 masks, which is a prerequisite for wearing them.
N95 masks meet NIOSH standards, but KN95 masks do not. While KN95 masks block out 0.3-micron particles, N95 masks have higher dipole charge density and thicker filters. Nevertheless, these masks may be less reputable than N95 masks. Despite the differences between these two standards, both KN95 and N95 masks perform the same task.
SL-P and KN95 masks also help block out 0.3-micron particles. The former can be used to protect the eyes from harmful airborne particles. They have different filters and can reduce the rate of inhalation by up to 60%. SL-P masks can be used for airborne particle control as well. The latter is a great choice for patients with asthma.
FFP2 masks block out 1.0-micron particles
The EN149 standard for respirator mask performance defines a class of respirator masks as FFP2. This type of respirator mask filters out particles 0.3 to 1.0 microns and provides adequate protection from irritants such as smoke and dust. A single layer of a cloth mask has a filtration efficiency of 90%, but a multiple-layer mask has an even higher filtration efficiency.
One of the most common types of masks is made of nonwoven fabric. Nonwoven fabric outer layers are combined with photocatalysts. In one study, these masks had almost no measurable bacteria after 30 minutes of simulated sunlight illumination. Photocatalyst-impregnated masks are highly effective only when they are exposed to sufficient light energy. The antimicrobial activity of these masks depends on the amount of light they receive.
Researchers tested the effectiveness of the two types of masks against the same particle size. They tested the effectiveness of both on children and adults and found that the FFP-2 masks performed better than the homemade mask. For both mask types, outward protection factors significantly depended on activity level. A homemade mask provided marginal outward protection while a surgical mask provided optimal outward protection. The FFP2 masks block out 1.0-micron particles without blocking 0.1-micron particles.
N95 masks are made in China
U.S. Senators have called on President Biden to prioritize the purchase of U.S.-made N95 masks. The senators also urged the Architect of the Capitol, J. Brett Blanton, and the Secretary of the Senate, Sonceria Ann Berry, to purchase masks made in the U.S. or with U.S. materials. However, the Architect of the Capitol has so far declined to act.
In addition to the lack of quality control in the production of N95 respirators, the ECRI has concluded that the majority of Chinese-made respirators do not meet U.S. standards for efficacy. It also found that hundreds of thousands of such products were purchased in the past six months by U.S. hospitals. To verify that these masks are indeed safe and effective, ECRI’s quality assurance researchers tested nearly 200 N95-style masks from 15 different manufacturers.
The company that manufactures N95 masks is Kimberly-Clark Professional, a subsidiary of the Kleenex brand. This company focuses on industrial markets and specializes in manufacturing face masks. The masks are designed to fit snugly around the nose. Tight elastic around the head holds the mask in place. Multiple layers of filters support the mask and keep droplets contained. A Korean manufacturer is also a potential supplier.