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What is the difference between N95 and N100 respirator masks?

With the concerns of a global pandemic unfolding, a reader asks what the difference between the different respirator masks on the market.

Pandemics are a very concerning health issue and one that I believe we should have a preparedness plan for. It’s been 100 years since the Spanish Flu and it isn’t too far off base to believe another pandemic can occur. Respirator masks are one of the first preparedness items to fly off the shelves when diseases are fast-spreading. There are differences in the respirator masks on the market and knowing the difference between them can help keep you and your family safer.

When the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) specified there be requirements for different respirator filters, they created three divisions for the filters with differing specifications: N series, R series, and P series. Using masks with air-purifying respirators protects by filtering particles out of the air the user is breathing. There are seven classes of filters for NIOSH-approved filtering facepiece respirators available at this time.

  • N95 – Filters at least 95% of airborne particles. Not resistant to oil.
  • Surgical N95 – A NIOSH-approved N95 respirator that has also been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a surgical mask.
  • N99 – Filters at least 99% of airborne particles. Not resistant to oil.
  • N100 – Filters at least 99.97% of airborne particles. Not resistant to oil.
  • R95 – Filters at least 95% of airborne particles. Somewhat resistant to oil.
  • P95 – Filters at least 95% of airborne particles. Strongly resistant to oil.
  • P99 – Filters at least 99% of airborne particles. Strongly resistant to oil.
  • P100 – Filters at least 99.97% of airborne particles. Strongly resistant to oil.

The difference between the N-series, R-series, and P-series of masks has to do with whether or not the mask will be worn in an environment where oils and their vapors can be inhaled. In short, N-series filters are not resistant to oil, R-series filters are resistant to oil, and P-series filters are oil proof.

The respirator filter ratings (95, 99, 100) refer to the percentage efficiency at removing particulates from breathing air. 95, 99 and 100 series filters are 95%, 99% and 100% efficient, respectively.

N95 respirators made by different companies were found to have different filtration efficiencies for the most penetrating particle size (0.1 to 0.3 micron), but all were at least 95% efficient at that size. Above the most penetrating particle size, the filtration efficiency increases with size; it reaches approximately 99.5% or higher at about 0.75 micron. Tests with bacteria of size and shape similar to Mycobacterium tuberculosis also showed filtration efficiencies of 99.5% or higher.

The coronavirus or newly-named COVID-19 is airborne, and researchers believe that the virus may have made the jump from animals to people via the inhalation of airborne particles in a seafood market that sold live wild animals. So it makes sense to cover your nose and mouth. To avoid this highly contagious virus, the CDC recommends wearing an N95 filtering facepiece respirator (FFR).

A few years ago, the concern of the Ebola virus was a fear of many. In the case of preparing for diseases such as Ebola, keep in mind that the Ebola virus strands can be as small as .02 microns in diameter, which are smaller than 3 microns. That said, the virus can permeate the filtered masks by a carrier such as (water molecules, bodily fluids, etc.). The best bet in assuring your family’s safety against pandemics is with N100 or P100 mask. Further, investing in other pandemic supplies would also be worthwhile.

Where To Find Respirator Masks When They Sell Out

If the concern for a pandemic grows, respirator masks will quickly sell out at superstores and medical supply stores, but there are some hidden ways of getting them that many do not realize. Home Supply stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot have N95 and N100 respirator masks in the paint section of their stores. A good quality mask could last for 1 week, so stock up if you plan on outlasting a pandemic!


As with most disasters, a pandemic will require a solid, well-thought plan for surviving as well as require long term social distancing measures that will further require you to be prepared for a long term disaster of 1-2 months or longer. Therefore, keep your needs in mind and prepare accordingly. I hope this helps, and best of luck on your pandemic preparedness kits.

 

 

 

Resources:

The Coronavirus Preparedness Handbook: How to Protect Your Home, School, Workplace, and Community from a Deadly Pandemic 

The Prepper’s Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Guide To Help You Through Any Disaster

This article was originally published at Ready Nutrition™ on September 19th, 2014

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