When it comes to protecting your respiratory system from the spewn, airborne, viral particles of others, there are a couple of things you should be looking for in a protective mask. One: a minimum rating of N95. Two: NIOSH approved.
When viral outbreaks occur, the CDC and WHO (World Health Organization) advise healthcare workers to wear NIOSH approved, PPE (personal protective equipment) with a N95 rating. Are there better rated masks? Yes, and we’ll go over them right after we touch upon these two important factors:
- NIOSH approved is critically important. The testing is rigorous and NIOSH approved masks are pushed to extremes during the certification process. We would never choose a NON-NIOSH approved mask when looking to protect ourselves.
- N95 – Means a respirator capable of blocking out 95% of particles at least 0.3 microns in diameter. This is what nearly all healthcare workers are wearing during flu season and viral outbreaks.
But what if all the N95 respirators are gone?
This is actually starting to happen. Home improvement stores across the nation are either completely out of stock or they are selling in limited quantities per customer. This is because most of our NIOSH approved respirators are, in fact, made in China and many Chinese factories are NOT operating due to the virus outbreak and strict quarantine.
In fact, the supply problem of the N95 Respirator is so bad that the CDC had to issue guidance for extended wear and reuse of N95 masks (link to CDC pandemic planning).
So if N95 masks are in short supply, what’s a good substitute? Well, it’s never a good idea to go lower (unless you absolutely have to). So let’s talk about the alternative.
What Mask is better than N95
It’s a logical question! If N95 is the minimum, then what mask is better than N95? All of these masks are better rated than N95: N99, N100, R99, R100, P99, P100. And if you are using the mask in an oily environment, R95 or P95 are better than N95.
We have an entire page dedicated to protective respirators and invite you to learn more about protection rankings and recommendations for online purchase. To view our very thorough, in-house guide, click here: N95-P100 Respirator Guide
Check back next week as we’ll be covering Surgical Masks vs. Respirators. Spoiler alert: surgical masks are primarily used to keep germs IN.