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What are n95 Respirators and why do they Matter?

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Most masks on the market today offer protection from anywhere between 35% to 65% of all airborne particles. This is undoubtedly better than not wearing a mask at all and can help to minimize illness and loss of life in this time of Covid-19. But many people do not know the difference between one style of face covering and the next, and which ones are best to use. Several different designs of masks and face covering are now being used and sold nationwide, but not all of them are useful or equal.

Gaiters, bandanas and neck sleeves are not proper filtration devices and offer very little protection. While better than not wearing a mask at all, these products are not meant to prevent any illness or disease from spreading.

Since the start of the spread of Covid-19 back in February, health officials have been warning people to use masks to stop the proliferation of the disease throughout our communities. Turn on the news and it’s fairly likely that a health official will be wearing a small blue square over their face. These are surgical masks, some of the easiest to find and buy today. These masks are one time use only and made to be disposed of after every use. They filter out large particles, as well as prevent droplets, spray and any pathogens present from reaching the nose and mouth of the mask wearer. As of right now, the CDC has not endorsed any specific surgical mask, though they are easy to find and use. Cloth masks do much the same job as surgical masks, with the added benefit of being machine washable and reusable. They are also easy to make and can be made from home following instructions or a YouTube video.

For the best results though, there aren’t many better options than the n95 mask, also called the n95 respirator. This mask is called n95 because it is able to block out and filter 95% of particles that come into contact with it. The mask is cone-shaped, and usually has a metal band to tighten around the nose, and a filter valve to allow for less breathing resistance. Most n95 masks are made from a tough but flexible non-woven polypropylene fiber. The filtration system works better than the cloth or surgical masks and can be opened to allow for easier breathing. It is not recommended to open the filtration system while in a public space as the system then doesn’t stop the wearers airborne particles from entering the atmosphere. These masks are vital for use in healthcare , where the high filtration rate increases the safety of staff, patients and other at-risk persons

In multiple tests done by several federal agencies and universities, n95 masks allowed the least number of droplets to pass through the filtrations system, beating out surgical and cloth masks, while other varieties, like bandanas fared very poorly in comparison to even cloth masks. Masks with the n95 rating prevent more droplets from transferring person to person meaning that there is a much lower likelihood of the spreading the illness. Mask up!.

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