Advantages and Disadvantages of Respirator Masks – N95

Respirator Masks have drawn more and more attention from consumers even since the pandemic triggered the alarm. With dwindling global supplies of breathing masks, people have grown more conscious about the use and efficacy of masks more than ever. How these different types of breathing masks can be helpful, and what are their limitations? These advantages and disadvantages of Respirator masks explore some essential information and facts.

Different Types of Breathing Masks and their Uses

Depending on the work environment and occupational circumstances, respirator masks can be categorized into different types and different series. With a primary purpose to cover your eyes, Respiratory Passage, and Mouth, these masks offer protection against occupational as well as environmental threats lurking in the air. Most of the respirators are for one-time use only and must be disposed of to avoid any health hazards.

Occupational Respirator Masks

  • Gas Masks/Air Purifying Respirator Masks (Used in Chemical Industries)
  • Particulate Respirator Masks
  • Escape Respirator Masks (used in an emergency to escape the dangerous areas)
  • Powered Air-Purifying Respirator Mask (PAPR) (used in extremely sensitive areas with poisonous gases)

Note: This section focuses on Non-Occupational respiratory masks or generally used masks, which are Dust masks, Paint Fume Respirator Mask, Smoke Respirator Masks (N95 Masks) that are also used as Personal Protection Equipment in Health & Medicare Sectors.

Why and when should we use respirator masks?

Respirators are categorized as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) you wear on the face to remove airborne contaminants. This protective facial covering is essential while you are at:

  • Congested places like supermarkets or gatherings.
  • Handling Dangerous Chemicals.
  • Highly polluted or stagnating place
  • Nuclear plant
  • Hospital

Respirator Masks Approved by NIOSH

Based on standards and parameters laid by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health-CDC, respirator masks are categorized into the following groups.

R Rating Oil Resistant Respirator:

R95 Masks fall into R Rating filtering 95% of airborne particles.

N Rating Not Oil Resistant Respirators:

  • N95 filtering at least 95% of incoming airborne particles.
  • N99 respirator masks have a capacity to filter at least 99% of airborne contaminants.
  • N100 respirator masks can filter at least 99.7% of solid particulate from in the air.

P Rating Oil Proof Respirators:

  • P95 Respiratory Masks can filter at least 95% of air contaminants.
  • P99 breathing Masks can sift at least 99% of solid particles.
  • P100 masks are the heaviest and battery-operated respirators designed to filter at least 99.7% of the surrounding air.

All the N-P-R rating masks have their limitations and use specific to working environments. R series masks can be easily used when dealing with oil aerosols.

Most Commonly used N95 Respirator Masks

  • These types of facial coverings are termed as dust respirator masks and are designed to protect you from airborne particles and liquid contaminating the face.
  • These face masks offer 95% protection against dust, mists, and fumes effectively blocking out particulates down to .3 microns and large droplets of cough and sneezing won’t pass through the barrier.
  • These Types of Filtering Facepiece are useful to protect from airborne bacteria and viruses.

Pros and Cons of Respirator Masks N95

Different Respirator masks are designed for different working conditions that should ease your breathing. You are recommended to wear a mask in case the surrounding environment is affected by contaminants or dust particles that can cause health hazards. Each type of respirator mask has its own benefits and limitations. Presented here are some facts about the N95 mask.

Advantages of Respiratory Masks –N95 Respirators

  • Offer protection to healthcare professionals.
  • Block 95% airborne particles.
  • Provide maximum protection against fluid particles and bacteria.
  • The seal formed in N95 respirator masks offers better protection of mouth and nose than surgical masks which filter only the outgoing air.

Limitations or Disadvantages of N95 Masks

  • Can’t be reused.
  • N95 respirator masks are not for use by the General Public.
  • Wearing N95 masks for too long can make it clogged due to outgoing droplets.
  • An N95 mask can cause difficulty in breathing to people suffering from chronic respiratory disease.
  • N95 masks are not good at controlling the outgoing droplets from your mouth while talking, coughing, and sneezing.
  • N95 Masks are not suitable for infected people as they can infect healthy people.
  • N95 respirators do not protect against oily aerosols or fumes.

Conclusion & Recommendations

A surgical mask prevents the outgoing air by containing droplets while you cough or sneeze. If you are symptomatic of any virulent disease, you need to wear a surgical mask in order to prevent the infection from spreading.

In contrast, other types of covers such as N95, FFP2, and FFP3 offer protection against the incoming pathogens and should be worn by non-infected people.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Respirator Masks – N95

Frequently Asked Questions

What are N95 Masks alternatives?

As per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, N95 masks are not to be used by the General Public except for healthcare professionals. You can buy an R rating mask (R95) as these respirators protect from Oil particulates. You can also buy Filtering Facepiece Particulate Respirator (FFP2 and FFP3) masks to protect yourself from communicable diseases.

How long does an n95 mask last?

According to the California Department of Public Health, you can wear N95 respirators for a maximum period of 8 hours. It needs to be disposed of afterward to prevent any health hazards because of the clogged dust and bacteria.

What can I use as a filter for a mask?

Researchers have found that a three-fold piece of cotton clothing can be used as a homemade filter mask or a bandana to prevent you from airborne viruses. The use of N95 masks are limited to only in the healthcare sector, Polypropylene-based homemade facepiece is also a cheaper replacement to N95 Masks.

Is n95 mask washable and reusable?

N95 respirators are designed for a single-use only. Given these can be used for eight straight hours, they get worn out, or the filter gets clogged with pollutants. Reusing it may become ineffective against airborne pollutants, even making it difficult for you to breathe.

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