Surgical Masks vs. N95 Respirators
There are two types of medical face masks: Procedure masks (a.k.a. surgical masks) and N95 masks (a.k.a. respirators).
It is important to understand the differences between the two:
- Face seal fit
- Intended use and purpose
- Testing and approval
- Fit testing requirement
- User seal check required
- Fluid resistant, protects wearer against large droplets, splashes or sprays of bodily or other hazardous fluids and protects patients from wearer’s respiratory emissions
- Degree of protection is indicated by ASTM level
- Leakage occurs around edges of mask when user inhales
- Cleared by Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- Reduces wearer’s exposure to particles including small particle aerosols and large droplets (only non-oil aerosols)
- Provides wearer with a reliable level of respiratory protection by filtering out at least 95% of large and small airborne particles
- When properly fitted, allows minimal leakage around edges when user inhales
- Cleared by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and evaluated, tested and approved by NIOSH as per 42 CFR Part 84 requirements
- Yes. Every time it is put on.
How to wear your mask correctly
A medical mask can only provide the protection it is designed to offer if it is worn correctly. This means there should be no gaps along the sides of the mask between the mask and the face and that the mask should extend from the bridge of the nose to the chin. It is critical that the mask covers not only the mouth, but also the nose. To ensure adequate coverage of the nose, masks should not be worn below or at the tip of the nose.
Choosing the right ASTM level
Medical masks should be selected based on the level of protection required for their intended use.
The ASTM (American Society of Testing and Materials) classifies the level of protection provided by medical masks as Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3 (with Level 3 providing the highest level of protection), based on the following criteria:
|Bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE)||≥ 95%||≥ 98%||≥ 98%|
|Particulate filtration efficiency at 0.1 μm (PFE)||≥ 95%||≥ 98%||≥ 98%|
|Resistant to penetration by synthetic blood||@80 mm Hg||@120 mm Hg||@160 mm Hg|
|Differential pressure (ΔP)||< 5.0 mm H2O/cm2||< 6.0 mm H2O/cm2||< 6.0 mm H2O/cm2|
|Flame spread||Class 1||Class 1||Class 1|
|N95 respirators only: Solid Aerosol filter efficiency||≥ 95%||≥ 95%||≥ 95%|