N95 face masks are being talked about everywhere.
You may have received conflicting information about what type of mask is most effective for the coronavirus. Or perhaps you have a mask and are wondering what type it is.
In this article, we’ll cover what N95 masks are, why that designation is significant, and how you can tell if your face mask is N95 (or better).
What Exactly are N95 Masks?
N95 masks come in a variety of types and models. Some models have exhalation valves that make breathing much easier. The borders of the N95 mask are designed to make a seal around the nose and mouth. The N95 mask doesn’t eliminate the risk of illness, but the filtration capacity surpasses that of surgical face masks.
Respirators are classified by NIOSH into categories depending on how resistant the filtration is to degradation by oils and particles.
N95 masks are part of the N-Series:
- N – Series (N95, N99, and N100). Respirators that belong to the N-Series protect against liquid and solid particulates. They are not resistant to oil-based particles. They are recommended only for us in workplaces free of oil aerosols.
The number reflects how effective the mask is at filtering airborne droplets. N95 masks, for example, are so-called because they’re designated to remove 95% of airborne particles that are at least 0.3 microns in diameter.
Other types of masks include surgical masks, and R-Series and P-Series respirators.
R-Class respirators can resist oil up to eight hours, and include R95, R99 and R100 respirators. Likewise, there are P95, P99 and P100 respirators, which are all fully resistant to oil.
What Are the Characteristics of N95 Masks?
The N95 respirator comes in a variety of styles.
Here are some of the common characteristics:
- The design is meant to create a tight fit. If worn correctly, the areas around the wearer’s nose and mouth are fully sealed. This is one of the main differences between N95 respirators and surgical masks, which are meant to create a loose fit and have visible gaps on both sides of the mouth.
- Once a seal around the nose and mouth is created, leakage should be minimal.
- Some models of the N95 respirator also come with exhalation valves. These are meant to reduce any heat build-up and make it easier for the wearer to breathe.
N95 respirators are not meant to be used by individuals that suffer from respiratory diseases and other individuals. This is not the case with surgical masks, since they create a loose fit.
The N95 respirator is also designed to protect from both big droplets and micro-particles, while surgical masks are adequate only for protecting against big droplets, mucus or other body fluids.
How Can I Tell if My Mask is an N95?
To check if your mask is N95 or better, check it for any marking or designations.
N95 masks are approved as a safety mask by the:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- National Institute for Occupational Safety (NIOSH)
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
They must be properly labelled. Look for a marking that says N95 with a box around it.
The Importance of Wearing Masks
For detailed information, see these websites:
- NIOSH-Approved Particulate Filtering Facepiece Respirators
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration: COVID-19
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Coronavirus