N95, An Introduction
NIOSH approved N95 respirators are universally recognized as the gold standard in protection against COVID-19. The 95 in N95 refers to the fact that these respirators block at least 95% of all airborne particles. They are the preferred face mask of frontline workers who rely on them to keep them safe during close interactions with patients infected with COVID-19. While N95’s are a necessity for frontline workers, they are equally as effective when worn by the general public. The bottom line is that anyone who can wear a N95 should wear a N95.
What is an N95 Respirator
The first thing to understand about N95 respirators is that N95 is a standard and not a brand or type of mask. Authentic N95 respirators come in many different types and styles. The style of the mask does not make it a N95. Rather, a respirator can only be called a N95 if it meets the standard.
The N95 standard is regulated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH. Only masks that have gone through the NIOSH approval process and meet all aspects of the standard are authentic. NIOSH is the only organization in the world that approves N95 respirators, which is why all authentic N95 respirators are stamped with the NIOSH symbol.
What is the NIOSH N95 Standard
If a manufacturer wants to market their product as a NIOSH approved N95 respirator they must meet the standard that NIOSH has established. The N95 standard has 3 key attributes, all of which must be met in order to qualify.
Filtration: This is the most fundamental aspect of any face mask. How effective is it in blocking airborne particles from being inhaled by the wearer? In order to qualify as a NIOSH approved N95 respirator, the mask must be proven in laboratory testing to block at least 95% of all airborne particles. While 95% is the minimum threshold, most N95 respirators, including all those supplied by Pearl River International, are laboratory proven to block over 99% of all airborne particles.
Breathability: While filtration is the main selling point, a face mask is only effective if a wearer is able to comfortably keep it on their face at all times. Unfortunately, many inferior products make it difficult to breathe comfortably even after wearing it for only a short period of time. Niosh approved N95 respirators are laboratory tested to ensure that a wearer can breathe comfortably the entire time they are wearing it.
Fit: This is an often overlooked aspect of any face mask. Even if a mask provides effective filtration and is suitably breathable, the protection it provides would be lost if the mask did not fit properly around the wearers mouth and nose. As such, all NIOSH approved N95 respirators must be found in laboratory testing to form a tight seal around a wearers nose and mouth.
The reason that NIOSH approved N95 respirators are trusted as the gold standard in facial protection goes far beyond meeting the 3 attributes of the NIOSH standard described above. In addition to meeting the standard, a manufacturer must maintain a rigorous quality control process. This process requires respirators to be continually tested to ensure that all respirators sold to the public meet the N95 standard. Lastly, NIOSH maintains ongoing oversight of every N95 approval holder through random performance audits as well as an annual recertification requirement. These quality control measures ensure that any respirator bearing the N95 name can be trusted and worn with confidence.
Pearl River International is proud to supply only authentic NIOSH approved N95 respirators. Our respirators have had NIOSH approval since 2014 and can be trusted to provide reliable protection against COVID-19. Please contact us with any additional questions you may have regarding the N95 standard.
To learn about how to spot the difference between authentic NIOSH approved N95 respirators and those that are fake, click here