What is an N95 Mask?
An N95 Mask is classified as a PPE or personal protective equipment. The mask was created for the protection of healthcare workers including doctors and nurses, manufacturing, construction and any industry requiring sanding or grinding. The masks are only intended to be used once.
In 2019, the approximate cost of an N95 mask was $1. Roughly one-third of all masks used are in North America. Only 14 percent of the masks used during 2019 were in the health care industry. The mask provides you with protection from contaminating liquids and airborne particles.
Specifics of the N95 Mask
According to honeywell, the fit of the N95 mask must be exact to efficiently protect you from airborne particles. We recommend making certain the edges of your mask form a good seal around your mouth and nose. These masks have been tested carefully. When fitted correctly, your N95 mask provides much better protection than a standard face mask. This does not mean your mask will eliminate the risk of contamination or illness completely. This mask may make it harder for you to breathe easily.
If you have a medical condition such as a cardiac or respiratory issue, we recommend talking to your healthcare provider prior to wearing an N95 mask. We have seen models with an exhalation valve. This will decrease the build-up of heat and make breathing easier. This particular model is inappropriate if sterile conditions are required. Ny.gov has stated the N95 masks have been labeled by the FDA as disposable. You are only meant to wear this mask once. If your mask becomes soiled or damaged or you experience difficulty breathing, you should dispose of your mask.
We recommend discarding your mask safely by putting it into a sealed plastic bag before you throw it into the trash. You should always wash your hands thoroughly after coming into contact with a used mask. The N95 is not recommended for individuals with facial hair or children. This is because a proper fit is not possible. The result is a loss of protection.
If you want to know N95 Mask alternate, check our guide on KN95 Mask.
N95 Masks and Healthcare Environments
The majority of masks are manufactured to be used within an industrial or construction setting due to the exposure to small particles of dust. The masks are regulated through the CDC or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The N95 is also worn as a single-use, protective respiratory device for health care workers. This is to protect the medical personnel form particulate material, bodily fluids and microorganisms. According to 3M, the N95 is classified as class II devices. All masks are exempt from the MSH product code unless:
- The mask is represented or labeled as filtering surgical plumes or smoke, filtering a specific amount of bacteria or viruses, decreasing or killing a specific percentage of fungi, bacteria or viruses or affects allergenicity.
- The intention of the mask is the prevention of specific infections or diseases.
- The coating technologies of the mask are not intended to decrease, kill or filter microorganisms.
N95 Masks and COVID-19
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a shortage of N95 masks. For this reason, New York has recommended the masks be reused by healthcare workers to ensure supplies last longer. The epicenter of the outbreak in the United States is New York. At this time, there have been over 81,000 cases reported with 4,500 resulting deaths. According to Barrons.com, 30 percent of all fatalities and 19 percent of all cases within the United States are in New York. There are currently 30,000 cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in the United States. The peak levels throughout the world are slightly down.
The CDC has recommended you wear a mask when you are in public to help maintain social distance in difficult areas including grocery stores. We believe everyone should be aware the CDC is not recommending the N95 masks be worn by the general public in most situations. The CDC has made templates available to show you how to use coffee filters to construct your own masks. This will provide you with protection from occasional sneezes or coughs.
Extending Life for N95 Masks
We want you to understand the difference between mask re-processing, rotation, re-use and extended use. According to Sages.org, the differences are defined as follows.
Re-Processed: Re-processed or decontaminated masks are not recommended by the CDC to decontaminate an industrial facility. For a mask to be considered re-processed, the mask must:
- Not be soiled by cosmetics or bodily fluids.
- There must not be any compromise regarding the proper fit.
- The viral load on the N95 must be sufficiently inactivated.
- The ionic charge and filtration capacity must be preserved.
You will find numerous sources online to help with re-processing your masks. An N95 mask is not the same as a dust mask. To understand the difference, visit envirosafetyproducts.com. Experiments have been conducted and data examined by both the private and academia sectors to make the best possible recommendations for re-processing your masks. There are technical reports and fact sheets available created to be user-friendly. The accuracy of these reports has not been guaranteed. This means you will be taking a risk if you re-process your masks.
Mask Rotation: Mask rotation is when you have a minimum of seven masks to rotate each day. Your masks must be completely dry before you use them to help ensure any contamination is not viable. The N95 masks are hydrophobic. This means there should not be any moisture. COVID-19 is unable to survive without a host for longer than a specific period of time. According to nih.gov, this is up to 24 hours for cardboard, 72 hours for plastic and 48 hours for metal surfaces. COVID-19 will not survive for more than three to four days on your mask.
Re-Use: There are numerous factors determining how many times you can re-use your mask safely. This includes:
- If your mask has been soiled
- If there was exposure to aerosolizing procedures
- How you store your masks
If your masks have not been subjected to any of the above stipulations, the CDC has stated your masks can be stored using a breathable container or hung to dry in between uses. Numerous organizations agree with this strategy because most viruses including COVID-19 lose viability once 72 hours have passed. If you are planning to re-use your masks, you need to avoid contamination as much as possible when putting on or taking off your masks.
Extended Use: According to the CDC, using an N95 mask can be safe for as long as eight hours. Prior to using this strategy, we encourage you to read the directions provided by your manufacturer. There are a lot of different versions of N95 masks including different shapes and strap materials. Every decontamination method is not effective for every type of mask. The most common methods are defined below.
UV Treatment: To decontaminate N95 masks, the correct dosing methods are required to ensure minimal degradation of the mask. For this reason, we do not recommend using a UV light at home to decontaminate your masks. There are some hospitals within the United States using this method.
Heat: According to Fda.gov, you can decontaminate your mask using heat if you preserve effective filtration and inactivate all viral particles. One suggested method is heating your mask for 30 minutes at 70C. The issue is at this time it remains unknown if a specific humidity level is necessary. For this reason, we do not recommend this method.
Hydrogen Peroxide Vaporization: This method is commonly referred to as HPV. The initial studies have shown as many as 50 cycles of N95 processing are required to achieve acceptable function preservation. The FDA has granted approval for this method during the COVID-19 pandemic only. A lot of hospitals in the United States are now using this method due to the current shortage of N95 masks.
The Way to Wear an N95 Mask
To completely understand N95 masks, we recommend visiting wiki You should not wear any mask without NIOSH compliance to ensure safety. The certification approval number and NIOSH logo will be on either your packaging or mask. If your mask is not certified, you may not be receiving adequate protection. You can purchase masks at home improvement stores, hardware stores, medical supply stores or online. An N95 mask will not protect you from chemical vapors, carbon monoxide, asbestos, an environment with low oxygen, gases or gasoline.
If you have a medical condition, you may experience difficulty breathing while wearing a mask. This is because as you are inhaling, air must be pulled through your mask. If you have any breathing issues, you should not wear any mask without talking to your physician first. According to cdc.gov, this includes:
- Pulmonary or cardio issues
- Any suspected breathing issue
If you experience any of the following issues while wearing your mask, we recommend leaving the area immediately, removing your mask, breathing in the fresh air and receiving medical attention if necessary.
- Breathing issues
We do not recommend using an N95 mask until you have read the directions from the manufacturer. To prevent breathing in dust or mold, both your mouth and nose must be covered. Your mask will not work correctly unless you have a snug fit. Your skin must be smooth to ensure the correct fit. If you have facial hair or a beard, your mask will not fit correctly. Air can leak in with as little as a one-day growth of beard. To be safe, we recommend a seal check for both negative and positive pressure. This will help ensure your mask is adjusted properly and fits correctly.
Negative Pressure Check: Put both of your hands over the entire mask and inhale sharply. Make certain you do not move your mask. If there is any air leaking around your eyes or face, your need to adjust your straps and nosepiece. Once you have done so, conduct another negative pressure check.
Positive Pressure Check: Place you hands over the entire mask and sharply breathe out. If you have an exhalation valve on your mask, the valve must be covered before you exhale. If your mask fits correctly, no air will leak out. If there is a leak, readjust your straps and nosepiece and perform another negative pressure check.
If your mask is clogged, you will have a hard time breathing. At this point, dispose of your mask and put on a new one. You should throw away your mask if it is dirty or wet on the inside, if your filter becomes torn or if it becomes deformed. You will be unable to achieve the proper fit if your mask is deformed.
Why the Masks are Called N95
To learn about the history of the N95, please visit fastcompany.com The N is a rating for the respirator class. This is an abbreviation for Non-Oil. This means if you work in an environment where oil-based particulates are not present, the N95 is appropriate. The 95 means your mask is 95 percent efficient. Your mask will filter out contaminants including fumes, mists and dusts. Your mask may contain an exhalation valve. This valve is optional. The valve makes breathing easier by decreasing your resistance when you are exhaling.
The Bottom Line: Prior to purchasing or wearing an N95 mask, we highly recommend understanding the capabilities and appropriate times and lengths of usage. Not every N95 mask is the same, and the majority are not recommended for the public. If you work in an environment where dust particles are common, you have most likely been provided with a mask by your employer. If you work in a healthcare environment, the CDC has strict guidelines regarding the use of the N95 mask. Following the correct procedures and guidelines will help ensure you remain safe.
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