Masks are common essentials now. However, not all masks are the same nor offer the same level of protection. There are regular surgical facial masks and ultra-protective masks like N95 respirators.

N95 respirators are particularly in demand because of the extra fit and protection they give. But how do N95 respirators work? Is there something special about it as to how it gives double protection to its wearer? All of this will be briefly discussed as we go on.

What is an N95 mask?

According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), an N95 respirator is a "respiratory protective device designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles. Note that the edges of the respirator are designed to form a seal around the nose and mouth. Surgical N95 Respirators are commonly used in healthcare settings and are a subset of N95 Filtering Facepiece Respirators (FFRs), often referred to as N95s."

N95 respirators were tested and approved for fluid resistance, filtration efficiency, flammability, and biocompatibility. N95 masks, however, shouldn't be reused.

How does an N95 respirator work to protect its wearer?

The N95 respirator has parts and characteristics that work together to provide double protection against airborne viruses. These parts and characteristics offer several protective benefits:

1) Valve: N95 respirators have valves but there are some N95 respirators that don't have valve parts; it's optional.

If your N95 respirator has a valve on it (usually located at the center of the mask), this adds to the easement of breathing on the wearer. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), "The presence of an exhalation valve reduces exhalation resistance, which makes it easier to breathe (exhale)."

2) Material: The material used as a covering and barrier tool in an N95 respirator is made up of electrostatic non-woven polypropylene fiber. Electrostatic non-woven polypropylene fiber works because it has an extremely fine structure, thus, filtering well the particles in the air. This kind of material also has electrostatic adsorption capacity, which further enhances its particle filtration power.

Furthermore, the material is cut out to fit the face of the wearer comfortably. It completely covers all the possible holes on the sides of the face, successfully covering the nose and mouth.

Characteristics:

  1. N: The N in N95 respirator stands for "Non-Oil," meaning if there's no oil-based particles present, you can use the N95 respirator in the working environment.
  2. 95: The 95 in N95 respirator stands for 95% efficiency in filtering airborne particles.
  3. microns: An N95 respirator offers protective barriers to as small as .3 microns in size. Contaminants like dust, mists, and fumes can't go through the mask. According to CDC, .3 microns won't pass through the barriers set by the N95 respirator.