Real N95 Mask
The year 2020 has been the most unusual year so far. It has been more than a year since we first heard about the covid-19 virus, and after that, many unexpected things have happened. In several decades it’s the first time people had to wear face masks.
The whole year passed, and people had to adopt the new normal, which includes wearing face masks, use of sanitizers, and practicing social distancing, and what not! In short, covid-19 changed the lifestyle of people all around the world.
Wearing face masks all the time was the new normal, and even now, it is. Nowadays, we see everyone around us wearing masks. But you may have noticed that the masks that people are using are not all the same. Everyone is using different masks.
You may have questions in your mind like why everyone is using different masks? Do all masks work the same? Is the N95 mask any better than the rest of the masks? How to identify real N95 masks? And so on. Today we are going to answer all of your questions and fact-check some of the rumors about N95 masks.
But before that, let’s understand what exactly an N95 mask is.
What is an N95 mask?
Most of us know about the N95 mask since the covid-19 pandemic. However, the N95 mask has existed for a long time. N95 is a respirator mask that blocks at least 95% of small particles of size 0.3 microns or above. This mask will filter out 95% of the smallest airborne particles, which a normal surgical mask or a cloth mask cannot block.
Very few people know that each character in the N95 mask represents some information. The letter N represents the respirator rating class. It stands for “Non-Oil”. What this means is, it can be used in an environment in which no oil-based airborne particles are present.
The number written at the end of the name always represents the efficiency of that mask. Number 95 states that the mask has 95% efficiency in filtering out particles. N95 masks will block 95% of +0.3 micron-sized particles.
The coronavirus pandemic began in December 2019. It did not take any longer for N95 masks to get hyped up because of the protection it offered. Due to the sudden rise in the demand of N95 masks, the prices of real N95 masks boosted up.
At that time, some of us preferred homemade cloth masks, whereas some chose surgical masks. But looking at the shortage of real N95 masks in the market caught the attention of a lot of scammers, and they manufactured and circulated many fake N95 masks seeking profit.
Now as we know what the N95 mask actually is and what it offers, let us see if it is any different from other kinds of masks. Also, please note that in this article, we will mainly talk about masks against the covid-19.
N95 masks vs surgical masks vs cloth masks
Today looking at people wearing masks is a common sight for us, but this was not the case 2 years back. Only the specific professions like those involved in mining, painting, and the healthcare industry required face masks. But suddenly, due to the covid-19 pandemic, every individual was advised to wear a face mask.
Due to lack of awareness about covid 19, people started wearing different kinds of masks, assuming it will protect them from viruses in any case. We understand that there is still a lot of confusion and doubts regarding the different types of masks and the protection offered by them. Therefore lets one by one take a look at the different kinds of masks.
- Cloth Masks: Cloth masks are cotton masks, and they can easily be made at home. These homemade masks are easily available and hence most used as well. Cloth masks can be cleaned and reused, unlike surgical masks.
CDC, the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention, stated that the use of cloth masks can slow down the spread of the covid-19 virus. To further enhance the protection 3 layer and 6 layer cloth masks can also be used.
- Surgical masks: Surgical masks are mainly used by healthcare workers to maintain hygiene, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, you must have seen most of the people wearing the same surgical masks for protection against covid-19.
These are disposable type masks. As these surgical masks are designed for health care professionals, they are not certified for respiratory protection.
The surgical masks do not provide good protection against small airborne particles. According to the CDC, the surgical masks give protection against respiratory droplets but it is not much effective against minute covid particles. These masks are not reusable rather disposable.
- N95 Masks: Talking about N95 masks (real N95 masks), even these masks are disposable but some of the variations are reusable. These masks are specially designed to provide respiratory protection as a face mask. The real N95 masks offer the best protection against minute airborne particles like coronavirus as compared to the cloth and surgical masks.
Despite that, the general public is not recommended to use N95 masks as these masks are limited and they should be available for the frontline workers who need them most.
To summarise, the N95 face masks offer better protection against the covid 19 and air pollution than the cloth and surgical masks. The reason I mentioned “real N95 masks” is that during this coronavirus pandemic there was a huge demand for N95 masks.
Many companies thought this might be a good idea to make money and started manufacturing fake N95 masks. You may have noticed that N95 masks are available at a wide range of prices from cheapest to the most expensive. Therefore let us see the differences between a real N95 mask and a fake N95 mask.
The Real N95 Mask vs Fake N95 Mask
At this point, there are thousands of fake N95 masks circulating in the market, and most of the people are not even aware of the same. The federal government is constantly trying to seize the fake N95 masks in the market.
Even you might be having a fake N95 mask instead of a real N95 mask. But no need to worry as we are here to help you out. There are several key differences between the real N95 mask and the fake one. Have a look at them and then check if you have brought a real N95 mask.
All the real N95 masks come with NIOSH approval. NIOSH, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, is a monitoring organization, and it comes under the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The real N95 mask will always have a NIOSH-approved stamp, and the fake one will not have any such stamp. The NIOSH stamp is only given to those masks, which have a filtering efficiency of up to 95%. You can visit the NIOSH website here to check out the list of certified manufacturers of the real N95 masks.
Another way by which you can confirm whether you have a real N95 mask or not is by checking and verifying the TC number on your mask. Each brand will have its own TC number printed on the real N95 masks which you can check on the CDC website. You can check the validity of your mask by verifying your N95 masks TC number.
To summarize everything that has been stated so far, let us have a quick look at real N95 masks properties.
Qualities Of A Real N95 Mask
- A real N95 Mask will have the NIOSH name written in the block letters and the TC approval number on the packaging as well as on the mask itself.
- Unlike regular face masks, a real N95 mask approved by NIOSH will have a headband for tight fit along with two ear bands.
- The “NIOSH” name is often misspelled on fake masks as “NISH” or anything other than a real name.
- Real N95 masks approved by NIOSH are never allowed to be used by children, and it is mentioned on the package.
To find out what is true and false about N95 masks, here are some fact checks related to N95 masks.
Filters of the N95 mask are not too large to stop covid-19 particles | Fact Check
Earlier, people claimed that the covid 19 particles are a lot smaller, and hence the comparatively larger filter of the N95 mask cannot block all the airborne virus particles. The size of one Covid 19 particle is 125 nanometers that are 0.125 microns.
Though it can vary anywhere between 0.06 to 0.14 microns. But the filter used in N95 masks filters out particles of size 300 nanometers, that is 0.3 microns or above. So the people questioned that the virus is smaller than the filter on the N95 mask, and hence the N95 mask is of no use.
The truth is, it’s right that the coronavirus has a size smaller than the filter mesh used on N95 masks. But the fact is the virus particles despite being so tiny, get caught by the filter of the N95 mask.
Here is the explanation. The virus is tiny, about 0.1 microns, but the virus particle does not travel alone. It is transmitted by some medium. The particle usually bounds with something bigger-sized than itself during transmission. Covid 19 particles usually attach to tiny water droplets, which come out while talking or coughing from the human mouth.
Therefore the tiny virus particles are now bonded with much larger water droplets or other biological material like mucus or proteins. Please note that here we are talking about sizes in microns.
Therefore despite the size of 0.3 microns of the filter, the N95 mask successfully manages to catch covid 19 particles and can definitely protect you in this pandemic.
Fake N95 Masks do not provide the protection promised by real N95 masks | Fact Check
After the covid 19 pandemic, many manufacturing companies tried to make their own N95 masks, and some of those failed to copy, and some even offered a normal cloth mask with the N95 logo. These fake masks are usually made with 2 layers of fabric.
The N95 masks are generally used by frontline healthcare workers, and due to false marketing, they give a false sense of security and protection to the healthcare professionals.
On the other hand, the real N95 masks are fabricated with up to 5 layers, and they ensure maximum safety as compared to fake masks and other cloth masks. Therefore always buy the real N95 masks from trusted brands only.
Conclusion | Real N95 Mask
Briefly to conclude, always be aware while purchasing any new N95 mask. Keep all the above-mentioned points in mind before you buy one. We would suggest, do not buy an N95 mask if not really needed, instead buy a six-layered cotton cloth mask.
The cotton mask will be a lot lighter and comfortable for everyday use. It will provide sufficient protection if you observe all other safety precautions carefully.
Lastly, we would say, if you come across any scam regarding a fake N95 mask or any other product, report the product to the concerned authority. If you are purchasing the product online, make sure you leave a critical review so even other buyers will notice the scam.
Similarly, if you come across a genuine real mask or product, leave a good review and let others know about it. And of course, as we have mentioned earlier, to buy a real N95 mask, you can check out the official links of NIOSH and CDC before buying any random mask.
We hope you found all your answers regarding N95 masks. If you still have any unanswered queries, drop them into the comment box below. We will be glad to reply to you. If you have any suggestions or feedback related to this topic, do let us know. Stay safe, stay healthy.