No face mask is more sought after than the N95 Respirator. According to the World Health Organization, at risk-groups should wear, at minimum, an N95, a face shield, and gloves if they plan rejoining large social gatherings, and the N95 is the preferred face mask of medical professionals. In the age of COVID, the N95 seems to be appearing more and more in discussions concerning absolute health and safety.
- The Most Effective Filter
To start with, the N95 is manufactured to be the most effective filtration device among face masks. According to the Center for Disease Control, the N stands for “not resistant to oil” and the 95 is the designation for “blocking 95% of very small (0.3 microns) particles in the air.” It has the highest possible filtration efficiency on the market, even more so than the general surgical masks that have become a common sight in the past few months.
- Tested Extensively
This isn’t to say that the standard 3-Ply surgical mask is totally inferior to the N95. According to the Food and Drug Association (the FDA), both the N95 and the 3-Ply Mask “are tested for fluid resistance, filtration efficiency (particulate filtration efficiency and bacterial filtration efficiency), flammability and biocompatibility.”
- Manufactured For Protection
The N95 is engineered with a high surface area, forcing particles (such as the hazardous droplets of COVID) to move through several layers of polypropylene fibers that have been melted down with high-pressure air. It doesn’t just block particles, but rather traps them. Oxygen molecules, meanwhile, are small enough to navigate the layers of fibers in the mask, allowing you to breathe easily.
- Sealed Fitting
Unlike other masks, the edges of the N95 seal tightly over the face to prevent particles from creeping in from the side. It feels tights and almost too restrictive, but to be fair, that’s how you know it’s working.
- The Most Expensive Mask
Some of you might have balked at the price tag on the N95, and for good reason. A full box of N95 Face Masks ballparks at about $120 or more, so just one N95 mask costs around $6-$8. The raw materials and manufacturing process for the N95 are more expensive than the standard 3-Ply Surgical mask, but the added protection can be a worthy investment for anyone at risk of exposure.
- There’s a Shortage
Unless you happen to be a medical professional, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any N95’s from a bonafide FDA-approved manufacturer. There have been supply-chain issues for a while now, leaving many states struggling to find a reliable source of N95 face masks.
- NIOSH-Approved or Bust
You might have seen “NIOSH” in the descriptions of N95 face masks, which stands for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. N95’s with this certification are sure to have all the protective qualities mentioned so far, so be sure to search for this acronym when you’re trying to identify the genuine article.