Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many healthcare workers wore an N95 mask regularly to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases and other harmful pathogens.
Now you’ll see N95 masks worn by individuals from all walks of life every day all over the world.
But, what are N95 face masks made out of? And why are they so effective? This article has the answers.
The majority of N95 masks are made out of polypropylene. Polypropylene is a synthetic material that contains plastic fiber and fossil fuels. It is the same material found in athletic and outdoor clothing like rain jackets and yoga pants.
Polypropylene is FDA-approved for food contact. Therefore, it is safe for humans to use. You will often find polypropylene in food and beverage products because it is highly resistant to heat.
It is important to understand that the term N95 refers to the efficacy of the mask. It does not have anything to do with the materials used in the construction of the mask.
Therefore, the N95 you purchase could contain any number of materials. Some companies make N95 masks out of aluminum, polyurethane, or rubber.
The process used to make polypropylene filters is known as melt bow extrusion. This process involves melting thousands of microfibers together using a special type of machine called an extruder.
Inside the extruder, each plastic microfiber gets threaded through a hole. Then it gets woven into a layer of fibers to create a web-like substance.
Next, the extruder applies hot air to the fibers to fuse them together. The process results in a webbed filter with an electrostatic charge capable of filtering out microbes.
When it comes to effectiveness, understand that the N95 rating is an indicator of how well these masks do their job. N95 refers to the ability of the respirator mask to filter 95 percent of all microbes and particles.
Because N95 masks filter out 95 percent of airborne microbes, they are considered the gold standard when it comes to face masks. This is especially true in industries like healthcare and construction.
Another reason N95 masks are so effective is because of the way we wear them. N95 masks are designed to create a seal against the face. That way there is no possibility of particles getting around the sides of the mask.
How to Purchase
Although there was a shortage of N95 masks near the beginning of the pandemic, it is now very easy to find face masks for sale by shopping online.
Despite the effectiveness of vaccines, many cities and states still require masks to be worn when indoors in public. N95 masks remain the best quality face masks available. They are still helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.
If you are concerned about the varying qualities of N95 masks, this Wirecutter article can help you determine which masks you can trust.
N95 Face Mask Takeaways
The N95 face mask most often contains polypropylene. The process used to make N95 masks is called extrusion and it involves melting microfibers and fusing them together to create a web-like fabric.
When worn properly, an N95 mask prevents 95 percent of particles from entering the mask. They are the most effective type of mask for preventing the spread of COVID-19.
If you found this article informative, check out the other articles in our Health and Knowledge sections.