Because of the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19, you probably heard by now of N95 respirator masks. They can be very beneficial for the general population to prevent getting or spreading the virus, and lifesaving for the medical staff and other frontline workers. But now you probably also seen ads or heard people talking about N99 or R95 masks.
No, these are not typos and those people did not want to write N95 instead. Let’s find out more and we’ll start with the basics. The most commonly used masks nowadays for protection against the coronavirus are the surgical masks. They fit loosely on the face and do not create a perfect seal, so particles can still enter through the sides. This means that you are not 100% protected against the virus.
On the other hand, respirators are designed to adjust on the face and offer a better protection. Governments and hospitals have been rushing to buy huge quantities of N95 masks to protect the healthcare workers, and this has created a shortage of these masks worldwide.
What does “N” stand for?
The names of respirators consist of a letter (which can be N, R and P) and a number (which can be 95, 99 and 100). So this means that we have 9 possible types of masks. The letters show if the mask is resistant to oil-based particles or not, and they stand for:
- N – non-resistant
- R – oil-resistant
- P – oil proof
The R and P masks are mostly used by workers in various industries, and are not really relevant at the present moment since the coronavirus particles are not oil-based.
The numbers refer to the percentage of particles that the mask filters out.
- 95 – filters 95% of airborne particles bigger than 0.3 microns
- 99 - filters 99% of airborne particles bigger than 0.3 microns
- 100 - filters 99.97% of airborne particles bigger than 0.3 microns
The higher the number, the bigger the protection offered by the mask, but also the harder it is to breathe when wearing it. This is because it lets in less airflow, and that’s why some masks are equipped with a one-way valve that makes it easier to breathe out. But this is not a good option in the current pandemic of coronavirus, as people who have the virus would breath out infected particles. If there is no valve, you won’t be able to wear the mask for extended periods of time without feeling suffocated, so that’s why 99 and 100 masks are not so common these days.
The N95 masks offer good enough protection against the virus, while also allowing people to breathe easier, and that’s why they are the most sought after nowadays. But even those masks should be replaced regularly, as the particles get stuck inside and this makes it harder to breathe.
This classification of masks was created by the NIOSH (the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health) which approves masks and manufacturers. So that’s why when buying an N95 mask it is important to get one that is “NIOSH approved”. The Protect Life masks have this feature, and you can buy them at this link.
Should you buy an N99 mask?
N95 masks were the first single-use respirators created and the most commonly used ones in a wide variety of industries. This is because they have the sweet spot of protection and breathability. They are also the best option for healthcare workers during the coronavirus pandemic, because they can be used for multiple hours, without making it hard to breathe.
But unfortunately there is a shortage of N95 masks today. So should regular people and healthcare workers use N99 masks instead? First of all, let’s mention that the general population that mostly stays inside and practices social distancing should not buy N95 masks. The small amount of available ones should go to healthcare workers and those in the front lines of the fight against this virus.
But what about N99 masks for these people? While they are not ideal for extended periods of time, they are still better than no protection. So during the shortage of N95 masks, N99 ones can become an alternative for healthcare workers and those in the front lines.
Get your NIOSH approved N95 respirators today by visiting this link.