N95 Mask Vs N95 Surgical Respirators Masks
Are all N95 Mask the same?
It can be confusing to differentiate between a standard NIOSH-approved
N95 respirator and a surgical N95 respirator. While similar in appearance, the key difference is the fluid resistance and the resulting FDA clearance of surgical N95s. Which ones are relegated to healthcare only and which ones are appropriate for the consumer to purchase? The answer can be tricky.
Surgical N95 Respirators – also called Surgical or Medical N95 respirators are both approved by NIOSH as an N95 respirator and also cleared by the FDA as a surgical mask. These products are frequently referred to as medical respirators, healthcare respirators, or surgical N95s. They work to reduce particles expelled by the wearer into the environment (plus fluid resistance) and they can be used during surgery and other tasks to help protect patient, and/or when fluid resistance may be required. They are ideal for infectious disease with fluid emission situations – According to 3M
NIOSH-Approved N95 Respirators Particulate masks are designed to help reduce the wearer’s exposure to airborne particulate hazards. In the U.S., respirators are tested and certified by the U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). They do not have FDA registration and typically would not be worn in surgical applications that would have a likelihood of fluid production.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC as well as the World Health Organization would rather both of these types of masks be left for healthcare workers only. The reason is that they can offer a reliable and measured source of protection in either a dry or fluid application. Furthermore, there are extreme shortages of these masks and necessary inventories are becoming difficult to find due to the Coronavirus, Covid-19 pandemic. They are considered the top mask available and offer superior protection.
Why is the general public discouraged from buying these masks?
The concern is that if the general public purchases the already short supplies of N95 masks, it will leave these crucial workers, who are the most likely to be exposed, unprotected and vulnerable.
The World Health Organization has urged the general public not to wear these masks in order to secure supplies for health workers.
The function of the N95 face mask
Approved and to be used by healthcare and first responders only
Evaluated, tested, and approved by NIOSH as per the requirements
Reduces wearer’s exposure to particles including small particle aerosols and large droplets (only non-oil aerosols).
Filters out at least 95% of airborne particles including large and small particles with the mask filter. Bi-lateral protection, protecting both you from others and others from you – cited CDC
The function of the N95 Surgical Respirators
-Approved and to be used by healthcare and first responders only
-Evaluated, tested, and approved by NIOSH as per the requirements and carry FDA registration
-Reduces wearer’s exposure to particles including small particle aerosols and large droplets (only non-oil aerosols).
-Helps to reduce particles expelled by the wearer into the environment (plus fluid resistance)
-Can be used during surgery and other tasks to help protect patient, and/or when fluid resistance may be required -Filters out at least 95% of airborne particles including large and small particles.
-Bi-lateral protection, protecting both you from others and others from you – cited CDC
Is the N95 Mask reusable?
Many people want to know how long an N95 face mask lasts. According to Healthy New York – Discard the mask if it is wet or dirty on the inside, if it is deformed, or if the filter is torn. A deformed mask may not fit properly. An N95 mask cannot be cleaned or disinfected. These masks are disposable and should be carefully discarded as a used medical device after each use. Do not attempt to hand wash or spray There are some companies that are working on industrial machines for decontamination methods using hydrogen or others that UV sterilization but at this time it is best to discard after each use.
If a healthcare facility is prioritizing respirator use – due to limited supply during a health emergency – they may want to consider prioritizing use of surgical N95 respirators for those healthcare workers requiring respiratory protection while performing surgery or other tasks that may expose them to high-pressure streams of bodily fluid or conducting work in a sterile field.
Authentic N95 products and counterfeiting
There seems to be a lot of non-reputable players trying to capitalize on the high demand and low supply of the N95 masks. The CDC recommends ways to spot a counterfeit or an inauthentic N95 mask.
There are reports of some companies selling counterfeit or stolen goods; and other instances of companies that are just running scams, taking buyers’ money and never delivering any items. According to The Associated Press, look at the straps – Earloops are a cheaper way to make the masks because they are attached with glue, whereas NIOSH-authenticated N95 masks have two bands that stretch behind the head and “must be stitched, stapled of soldered,” in order to achieve a tighter seal between the mask and the face, according to The AP.
Here is a list of approved N95 mask factories with CDC and NIOSH registration
If you are in the healthcare field or healthcare business, having the correct N95 mask is an important choice and can help improve your protection against Covid-19 and other infectious diseases.
Where can I buy n95 face masks?