Each one of us has felt the need of wearing a pollution mask sometimes. Since the past couple months, the world is looking for Masks For Coronavirus. N95 masks are in such huge demand that countries have to import them. Whatever the reason for your mask search may be, N95 and N99 masks are very useful. Pollution Masks offer an effective protection against pollution, dust, smoke or flu. If I can guess it rightly, there are a few things people often get confused about. The first is which one to choose – P95 vs N95 masks? Also, there’s a lack of understanding as to what is a respirator. This post will dispel all your doubts. We’ll be discussing in detail about P95, N95, R95, P99, N99 and similar masks.
POLLUTION MASK RATINGS
Every product in the market has to get certification from one or the other watchdogs. For masks, there’s this government agency by the name National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). NIOSH tests and allots ratings to masks from different manufacturers. It oversees whether or not there is consistency in what is marketed and the actual product performance.
Ratings are given depending on how effective a mask is against particulate matter and oil. The mask material and the technology behind its fabric are important. A mask is capable to resist a minimum percentage of pollutants. If you see Pollution Masks are designated as N95, it means they can stop a minimum 95% of the pollutants. Likewise, N99 and N100 pollution masks stop 99% and 99.97% particles resp.
RESPIRATOR CLASSES – P95 vs N95 vs R95
What is the difference between P95 and N95? The below explanation will clear all your doubts. Every mask that you set out to purchase will have a model number. Companies have their own codes for that but masks fall into 3 classes. Each manufacturer has to clearly state the Letter Class to which the particular mask belongs.
- N CLASS means the mask material is Not Oil Resistant
- P CLASS means the masks material is 100% Oil Proof
- R CLASS denotes the mask material is Resistant to Oil.
When some industrial solvents or chemicals containing oil are sprayed, tiny oil particles become airborne. Oil aerosols find use as a sealant, lubricant and coolant. This is the oil we are talking about above. Don’t think someone will dip the wearer in oil. Oil and grease reduce the efficiency of even P and R class masks.
Also, the mask maker must specify the Number Class appended in front of the letter class.
- 95 – Number 95 if written next to a N/P/R class mask denotes a minimum 95% efficiency.
- 99 – Number 99 if written next to a N/P/R class mask denotes a minimum 99% efficiency.
- 100 – Number 100 if written next to a N/P/R class mask denotes a minimum 99.97% efficiency.
|EXAMPLE What according to you would a respirator with P100 rating do? If it indeed is a P100 mask, it means it is tested to be 100% oil proof. Not just oil, it can very well filter 99.97% of all particles 0.3 microns in diameter or larger. Naturally the price of such masks is way higher than ordinary N95 or N99 Masks.|
How Pollution Masks Work?
A mask is not an air-proof thing. There’s a whole technology at work behind the scenes. Its material has to pass many tests to be rolled out on commercial scale. 3M is one company which is a front-runner in filter technology. The wearer should be protected against pollutants but must not face much breathing resistance. If the material is very dense then exhaust valves save the day.
A mask has tiny pores in its fabric. Pollutants are stopped when they get trapped inside these. The different layers that make up a mask play a role here. By default an electrostatic charge exists between these layers. This magnetism pulls the dust particles to trap them. Oil or grease droplets discharge this magnetism and degrade the mask’s performance.
P95 MASKS – Best Protection And Breathability
P-class masks have an excellent ability to stop oil based aerosols. A normal user would not have to use these. Hence, P95 and P100 masks find use only in industrial environments. Workers wear P95 or P100 masks as a protection against oil aerosols. Choosing P95 vs N95 mask is solely dependent on whether aerosols are present in the air on not.
Each mask has a fixed life after which it should be disposed of properly. P95 Masks can maintain their resolve for 40 hours usage. If the mask has seen limited On-Off use, still the wearer should discard it after 30 days. Do not use an old P95 mask lying in your garage or tools box. I know you may be finding it hard to find masks online these days. Its best to stay indoors and if the need be use a surgical mask. Any mask is better than not wearing any mask at all!
N95 MASKS – Popular Choice Against Virus And Pollution
The most common class of masks there is. Open any e-commerce website and search for “pollution masks”. The flurry of results would mostly be N95 masks followed by N99 masks. A N95 mask stops 95% of all particles sized 300 nanometer and above. This 95% is the minimum percentage it would stop, not absolute. Most N95 masks are capable of filtering way more perfectly. N95 masks are widely worn as a protection against pollution due to vehicles or dust.
N95 masks give good resistance against airborne pathogens. Virus and bacteria cause flu, tuberculosis among many diseases. Most of these pathogens are larger than 300 microns. Virus Masks can easily keep them from entering your body.
The 3M 8511 N95 mask you see above fits well owing to its cup shape. Beards or facial hair are an impediment in securing a good seal. So, if you really wish to see the full benefits of wearing a mask, you know what to do.
R95 masks lie in the middle of N95 and P95 masks in terms of repulsion for oil. In environments which abound in suspended oil particles, R-class masks give limited protection. Contrast this with the performance of N95 masks which fail here. An employee at a petrol or diesel fuel station should be wearing R95 masks and not N95.
Its advantageous to wear a R95 mask over an N95 mask. This is because a R95 mask is capable of doing all what an N95 mask can do. Plus, it can also protect you from oil-based aerosols.
N99 MASKS – Greater Protection But Heavier To Breathe In
For people who need extra protection than a N95 mask can provide, N99 masks are available. Its reasonable enough for someone to think – ” Why to compromise with my safety with only 95% protection when I can be 99% safe? Its just a matter of shelling out a little more price!”. N99 Masks are a must for smoggy days like happened last year in November or the Australian bush-fires.
N99 masks have more layers which may seem heavy to breathe in by some. Hence, all N99 masks come with exhaust valves. The valve is a one-way exhaust and only opens when the wearer exhales. Apart from preventing moisture and CO2 buildup inside the mask, valves help in heat dissipation too.
N100 POLLUTION MASKS
By now you know what to expect from a N100 mask, right? For people who demand even greater protection than a N99 mask, they look for N100 masks. Wear a N100 Mask and 99.97% of sub-micron particles wouldn’t be able to get through. Needless to say, N100 masks are costly and not very affordable to a common user.
N100 masks are not commonly available in India. Still, we found this P100 mask for you which as you know by now is superior to N100.
Is P95 Better Than N95?
Yes, P95 respirator is better than N95 one. You already know the reason now. For fighting Coronavirus, each is equally good and capable of keeping the little b@#!#$% away from your nasal tract. Be vigilant in handling the masks when putting them off after use. Never touch the outer layer and always hold them through the ear-loops. Wash your hands with soap after storing or discarding the mask.
WHEN TO DISCARD POLLUTION MASKS
Pollution masks are not something which you can use indefinitely. That’s the sad part to it. We all want our purchases to last long, isn’t it? Ideally, the user should discard the mask once he comes out of the ‘polluted’ environment. The mask appearance and color could testify the extent to which it saved your lungs and respiratory system. Reusing a mask ups the risk of infections and contamination. The outer surface of the mask traps all the microbes, pollutants and what not. Hence, you should never touch the outer layer of a used mask.
Some masks are washable so that’s some good news. But, even the washable masks can be reused 2-3 times only. Many mask makers have come up with a novel idea. Many masks come with an outer washable mask with replaceable filters. Each purchase of a mask brings along a few filters.
Never even think of exchanging masks among multiple users. A mask should be as private to you as….( you can complete the sentence; there are many similes for it). The life of N95 vs P95 masks is not significant.
WHAT ARE THE DUST MASK RATINGS?
Dust masks provide protection against dust, powders and aerosols. Now, dust is not just the one which is there on the roadside or on your floor. Dust can be generated in industrial, agricultural, or chemical processes. Construction sites abound in cement, wood and brick dust. Agricultural areas have dust and smoke particles. Even pharma processes can generate dust.
You should choose a proper dust mask depending on what type of dust you are facing and to what intensity. This is when the dust mask ratings come in as an indicator for you.
WHY ARE DUST MASKS NEEDED?
Whether you are employed in a hazardous industry or encounter dust while travelling, you need dust respirators. People often choose not to wear protective gear to show-off or due to peer consciousness. They should keep all shyness and hitch aside for the sake of their own health.
Failing to wear dust masks can invite health troubles. It is commonsense that why would the body tolerate harmful foreign particles day after day. It will surely resist and its agitation can manifest itself as a number of diseases.
Symptoms may show up as difficulty in breathing, gasping, wheezing or dry persistent cough. Diseases like COPD, lung cancer are common side-effects of ignoring safety procedures.
FFP Respirator Codes Or Filtering Face Piece Grades
In European countries dust mask are graded as FFP1, FFP2, and FFP3 respirators. Sometimes you can find these ratings abbreviated to just P1/P2/P3. If you are employed in such a work where dust abounds then this is for you. You must carefully select the Grade after identifying the extent of dust or particulate pollution. Even wearing the right fitting mask is crucial. Do not wear an ill-fit or a lower grade mask when the situation demands a higher grade. Doing so is akin to wearing no protective gear as all!
Normally, what respirator grade is ideal for a particular industry is pre-known. Here, it becomes necessary to discuss two terms.
- Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL)
- Protection Factor (PF) – Protection Factor is what protection can be expected from a specific class of respirator. Different countries call this by names such as APF (Assigned), NPF (Nominal), WPF (Workplace). Others use FF (Fit Factor) or MRPF (Minimum Required).
Protection factor is a helpful indicator while choosing a respirator for your needs. Remember that PF varies from country to country. Do not take just the PF as the sole criterion to choose a respirator. Factor the workplace and the application at hand also. A list of important factors to weigh in your decision is as below-
- Training Level of users. Companies provide proper training to the people who are to wear the masks.
- Work Intensity is also important as the body movements affect the respiration rate.
- The hazardous nature of the dust for which protection is sought.
- The concentration levels of the pollutants.
- What amount of maintenance do the masks require and whether it is feasible to give it that.
- The nature of the workplace, whether it is confined, underground, or deemed dangerous.
FFP1 vs FFP2 vs FFP3 Dust Masks
Respirator Vs Surgical Masks
This question is often asked by people. Respirators are costlier as they provide far greater protection in a contaminated environment. A respirator is unnecessary for a doctor to wear who is just to attending to a patient in a clean hospital room. Patients may be asked to wear a surgical mask to protect healthcare workers. It is imperative to mutually protect patients and health care professionals from each other. A hospital or health center is high on particles as a patient talks, sneezes or coughs.
Surgical Masks are just to maintain a sterile (bacteria free) environment. Infections spread from one person to another through openings in the body. Discharges from the nose, mouth, cuts, wounds are carriers of pathogens which transmit diseases. A surgical mask when worn by a surgeon puts a barrier in front of his mouth and nose. Splashes of bodily fluids of the patient are thus saved from entering the wearer’s body.
A respirator comes to the rescue when an environment is full of small non-organic particles like that of dust, sawdust, asbestos etc. Respirators are as you already know by now graded by NIOSH and other governmental agencies.
Then there are medical respirators. These are tested by both FDA and NIOSH for their own testing. Medical respirators give health workers the best of both worlds. They give the protection of a respirator and breathability of a surgical mask.
- N95 respirator face masks are thoroughly effective against viruses but not as a standalone measure.
- R95 masks are better than N95 masks. If you have a set of R95 masks, use them freely against COVID-19.
- P95 dust masks are effective against viruses but unnecessary to be used for this purpose. N95 masks are more than sufficient.
P95 vs N95 Masks – That’s A Wrap!
So now you fully understand what the mask descriptions harp about on product pages. Get a proper mask which suits your requirements. An ill-fitting mask is worse than not wearing one at all. Ask why! Since, a mask which does not give a good seal gives only a fractional protection. Its akin to flushing your money down the drain to wear such a mask. Carefully read product descriptions and read reviews from multiple users spanned across many months. This is the safest way to get a true idea about a product.
For Coronavirus, a surgical mask is sufficient but they do not fit very well. A cup shaped N95 Mask can do the trick.