Today’s N95 masks are the result of filtering material and technology first patented in 1995. However, there have been many inventions and variations of face coverings built on each other over many decades and centuries.
So, how has the quality and effectiveness of face masks evolved over time, into those available on the market today? How does the N95 mask compare to other types of face masks being worn? How N95 masks work? Where can you buy the best n95 masks now? What N95 Mask To Buy?
An N95 mask is one of today’s high-quality respirators. A face mask that protects the wearer and those around them from dangerous particles in the air.
1. Filtering out 95% of harmful airborne particles
2. Providing a good fit and seal around the user’s face
3. The optimal combination of personal protective equipment and ease of breathing
To qualify as an N95 mask, manufacturers and individual product designs must be approved and certified by NIOSH. They are also required to pass detailed testing procedures and must filter out 95% or more of airborne particles in those tests.
Common uses for the N95 mask today include:
Public disease control
For healthcare workers
On construction sites as dust masks, and protection against toxic mold
To comply with government mandates for individuals and employers
The N95 mask is a US designation in accordance with NIOSH standards.
This is similar to FFP2 half-face masks regulated to European Union standards to filter out a lower amount of 94% of airborne particles.
The KN95 mask was China’s version of the N95 mask. Health Canada and the FDA do not consider all face masks dubbed KN95 true respirators. In addition, NIOSH has reportedly found that some KN95 labeled products filter out just 1% instead of 95% of harmful particles in the air.
N99 masks offer an even higher filtration level at 99% in the US. Some users may not find them as easy to breathe through as the N95. A mask with an exhalation valve may make it easy to breathe out.
Loose-fitting surgical masks that you may have previously seen doctors wearing are very different from the N95 mask.
Cloth surgical masks may provide a physical barrier to block saliva. Large droplets exhaled, coughed, or sneezed out by the wearer. However, they lack a tight fit to prevent leakage around the mask. They also do not block small particles that diseases and viruses often travel on.
When put through NIOSH certification testing, surgical masks filtered out as little as 10% of particles. Compare that to 95% or more with the N95 mask.
When was the N95 mask invented?
According to the National Library of Medicine and the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the N95 respirator mask came about in 1995. Then, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued new regulations and created a new filter certification system.
The filtration effectiveness of the N95 mask is credited to Peter Tsai. A scientist who immigrated to the US from Taiwan. Tsai was an overachiever who earned the equivalent of six Ph. D.s in college credits during his studies. He came up with the material for the N95, with the added invention of using polarization and electrostatically charged fibers to filter out even more particles from the air.
Face masks can be traced back to the 1300s and the Back Death plague in Europe. In the 1600s, we had those bird-like plague masks. However, they were initially designed to block out smells. It was believed that smells and gasses from the earth made people sick. No person-to-person transmission.
In 1910 a plague broke out in China. It killed 100% of those infected. The race was on to stop the infection from spreading. Doctor Lien-Teh Wu reportedly figured out that it was spread through the air, and developed a cloth mask made of layers of cotton and gauze.
Of course, in the period of the Spanish Flu, we had full-on gas masks from the war. Though they weren’t very efficient for many daily uses, like the asbestos crisis.
It was a designer, Sara Turnbull who is credited with today’s modern mask design, according to Fast Company. She turned up at 3M with a portfolio of ideas for new woven fabrics. They initially assigned her to create a bra. That turned into designing a cup-style face mask based on the bra.
By the 70s, the first dust mask respirators were put in use. Mainly for workers in hazardous environments, like mines and factories.
However, it wasn’t until Peter Tsai’s innovation that we really gained the protection levels that today’s N95 mask can offer.
An N95 mask is designed as a single-use, disposable product. Something you should change for a new one with each work, or each day.
When COVID-19 hit, Peter Tsai reportedly came out of retirement to work 20 hour days to help find ways to speed up mask production and to find ways to extend the use of the N95 masks.
His work found that dry heating masks to 158 degrees for 60 minutes was the best way to sanitize them while minimizing the breakdown ineffectiveness. He has also tried leaving masks alone for seven days to wait for the virus on them to die.
None of these decontamination methods are recommended outside of a professional facility. Instead. individuals and employers should be focused on maintaining a supply of fresh, new disposable N95 masks at home and in the workplace.