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Many health experts agree that N95 masks are the most effective type of face covering for preventing viral particles from entering or exiting the wearer’s mouth. According to a recent CNN report, a number of experts claim that widespread use of N95 masks in public could actually end the COVID-19 pandemic.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been encouraging governments to ask people to wear face masks when out in public. People who are sick or caring for someone who’s sick are strongly advised to wear masks. Depending on where you live in Canada, you may actually be required by law to wear a face mask when out in public.
Retail availability of these masks is growing as manufacturers step up production to meet increased demand. We’ve rounded up a list of online retailers that sell N95 face masks in bulk. We’ve also listed which ones offer free shipping deals, so you can save while getting the products you need.
If you’re buying masks for a group of people (for example, a team of staff in an essential services workplace) who are expected to wear a mask, in the long run, you may want to bulk buy. Buying in bulk is generally much cheaper when you consider the cost per item. It also means you don’t have to order masks as frequently and can minimize your shopping trips.
The WHO recommends wearing a face mask when out in public or if you’re sick or caring for someone who’s sick. (The WHO further states that fabric masks may suffice when out in public if you’re not sick and don’t have access to higher-quality masks.) Since most industry-standard masks are not re-usable, you may find that you’ll go through quite a few.
Not unless you need a large quantity of masks. Unless you’re caring for someone who is sick or are sick yourself, you should save the limited supply for those who are in need.
|Filter performance||≥ 95%||≥ 95%||≥ 95%||≥ 94%||≥ 94%||≥ 95%|
|Test agent||NaCl||NaCl and paraffin oil||NaCl||NaCl||NaCl and paraffin oil||NaCl|
|Flow rate||85 L/min||95 L/min||85 L/min||95 L/min||95 L/min||85 L/min|
|Total inward leakage (TIL)||N/A||≤ 8% leakage||≤ 8% leakage||≤ 8% leakage||≤ 8% leakage||Inward Leakage measured and included in User Instructions|
|Inhalation resistance||≤ 343 Pa||≤ 70 Pa (at 30L/min)≤ 240 Pa (at 95 L/min)≤ 500 Pa (clogging)||≤ 350 Pa||≤ 70 Pa (at 30L/min)≤ 240 Pa (at 95L/min)||≤ 70 Pa (at 30L/min)≤ 240 Pa (at 95L/min)||≤ 70 Pa (w/valve)≤ 50 Pa (no valve)|
|Flow rate||85L/min||Varied – seeabove||85L/min||Varied – seeabove||Varied – seeabove||40L/min|
|Exhalation resistance||≤ 245 Pa||≤ 300 Pa||≤ 250 Pa||≤ 120 Pa||≤ 300 Pa||≤ 70 Pa (w/valve) ≤ 50 Pa (no valve)|
|Exhalation valve leakage requirement||Leak rate ≤ 30mL/min||N/A||Depressurization to 0 Pa ≥ 20 sec||Leak rate ≤ 30mL/min||Visual inspection after 300L /min for 30 sec||Depressurization to 0 Pa ≥ 15sec|
|Force applied||-245 Pa||N/A||-1180 Pa||-250 Pa||N/A||-1,470 Pa|
|CO2 clearance requirement||N/A||≤ 1%||≤ 1%||≤ 1%||≤ 1%||≤ 1%|
It depends on where you live. Certain cities such as Ottawa, Toronto, Kingston in Ontario have implemented bylaws requiring people to wear face masks when in public. Outside these jurisdictions, businesses and other organizations may still exercise the discretion to require customers and employees to wear face masks. In some regions, wearing a mask is mandatory when riding public transit.
The consequences for failing to follow regional rules usually involve stiff fines ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
It’s expected that more cities will consider adopting similar bylaws in the future to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as per the World Health Organization’s recommendations. Previously, the WHO had issued a statement advising governments to request that people wear fabric face masks in public.
Take a look at this helpful page on the Government of Canada website to learn more about masks that offer the best protection during COVID-19. You can also learn about when and how to use masks from on the World Health Organization’s site.
Differences come down to function and intended use. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) tests and certifies standard respirator masks used in the workplace to prevent dust and other small airborne particles from inhalation. Health Canada officially recognizes the NIOSH certification standard for N95 face masks.
In contrast, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clears as medical devices both standard surgical masks and surgical N95 respirator masks intended for use by healthcare workers.
According to a NIOSH representative to whom Finder reached out, “NIOSH approves respirators in accordance with 42 Code of Federal Regulations Part 84 (42 CFR 84), not to any other standards. Only respirators that meet or exceed all of the requirements established in the 42 CFR 84 standards are acknowledged by NIOSH, and only those that have been NIOSH approved may be marketed as a NIOSH-approved respirator. If a respirator is marked only N95, that does not constitute a NIOSH approval. Currently, N95 is not trademarked. It has been used to indicate a filtering facepiece respirator (FFR) is 95% efficient; however, it should not be used in a context that misleads a user to think an FFR is NIOSH-approved that is not.”
|Approval or clearance organization||Mask type||Function|
|NIOSH-approved||Standard N95 respirator||Reduces the amount of airborne particles inhaled by the wearer.|
|FDA-cleared||Surgical masks||Reduces the amount of particles expelled by the wearer and offers protection from fluids.|
|NIOSH-approved and FDA-cleared||Surgical N95 respirators||Reduces the amount of airborne particles inhaled and expelled by the wearer, and offers protection from fluids.|
Below is an example of what a face mask should look like according to NIOSH approval standards. To verify if a respirator is NIOSH approved, use the NIOSH Certified Equipment List or its list of NIOSH-Approved filtering facepiece respirators.
Image source: CDC.gov
You should avoid wearing a KN95 mask if you need N95-level protection. KN95 masks are supposed to be similar (though not identical) to N95 masks, however, the Government of Canada has warned that some companies are importing or distributing KN95 masks that don’t meet NIOSH quality standards for filtration. NIOSH is the US regulatory organization that tests and certifies N95 masks.
In the United States, the FDA originally left the KN95 off its approved list of protective wear but has since approved KN95 masks that meet certain criteria.
According to the Canadian government, Canadians using KN95 masks outside of a healthcare setting can continue to do so, but healthcare professionals are encouraged to double check the quality of any KN95 masks they’re using.
You should also be wary of scammers who try to profit from the COVID-19 pandemic by selling face masks that they falsely claim are medical grade. 3M, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of masks, offers a tool to check if a product is genuine.
Generally, a single N95 or P2 mask works for around 8 hours before needing to be replaced, as it will become less effective. According to the World Health Organization you should also replace any single-use mask once it gets damp.
If you need to use a mask on more than one occasion, many of the sites listed above carry multi-packs. 3M also manufactures masks with replaceable filters.
N95 masks are made of several layers of special non-woven fabric, with a filtration facepiece respirator (FFP) in the middle.
The 2 outer layers are made from melt-blown fabric, which filters out small airborne particles. Melt-blown fabric is made by melting polypropylene and other similar types of plastics and using a machine to draw the material out into fine strands. As these strands cool next to each other, they bond together to form a solid sheet of melt-blown fabric.
Between these 2 layers is a layer of no-melt cotton, which absorbs moisture, and the FFP respirator. The respirator component of masks like the N95, FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3 sets them apart from disposable surgical masks, which do not contain a respirator but still protect the wearer from spreading airborne particles and being exposed to bodily fluids.
First, wash your hands thoroughly before putting on your mask. When you’re ready to take it off, do not touch the front of the mask – it could be contaminated. Instead, remove the mask by pulling the bottom strap over the back of your head, followed by the top strap. Discard the mask immediately, and then wash your hands.
There’s a lot of information out there about when and where to wear a mask and what type of mask you need for various situations. Use this quick guide to help you decide which kind of face mask best fits your needs.
|Mask type||Who is it best for?||Description||How long does it last?|
|N95 respirators, KN95 face masks||Healthcare workers||Blocks at least 95% of airborne particles when worn properly. Adheres to government testing regulations.||Can be reused in certain situations, but must be discarded after coming into contact with bodily fluids, infected patients and in other circumstances. Read the CDC’s full reuse guidelines.|
|Surgical face masks||People who are sick or caring for someone who is sick||Protects wearers from infecting others. Usually made of 3 layers of melt-blown fabric.||Intended to be discarded after every use.|
|Cloth face masks||The general population when in a public space (particularly when it’s hard to socially distance from others)||Typically made from cotton fabric with elastic or tie straps. Some designs have a pocket to place a removable filter.||Can be washed and reused for weeks or even months, as long as the material maintains its integrity.|
Find information, requirements, in-stock products and other details for specific types of masks on these pages.
Looking to buy a N95-compliant face mask? Here’s where to shop for them in Canada.
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