Making Sense of Facial Respirators

Making Sense of Facial Respirators

Update - April 3, 2020 - The University of Tennessee Research Foundation has posted an informative article regarding sterilization of face mask and materials. Read it here: Information and FAQs on the Performance, Protection, and Sterilization of Face Mask Materials


As our global society fields the unprecedented effect COVID-19 has on our daily lives, at Inhale Health® we are doing all we can to extend our infrastructure and supply chain relationships to get resources to the front lines.

Last month Inhale Health® was on-boarded as a supplier to New York City’s Municipal Healthcare system. We are currently employing all available resources at our disposal to procure personal protective equipment to aid the shortage medical professionals are currently experiencing in the field.

Since our formation, our mission has always been to increase health through innovation. In trying times like these, we all have a duty to do our part. Whether it’s through upholding good social distancing practices, bringing supplies to a neighbor in need, or in our case working to employ innovative logistic and sourcing solutions to help mitigate supply shortages with agility.

In recent days, we’ve focused particularly on sourcing facial respirators of which there is an urgent need. In doing so, we’ve learned a great deal.

As of the date of this article, medical professionals across our nation are experiencing a severe shortage of the supplies necessary for them to safely preform their duties. The United States own national stockpile is nearly depleted. The models estimating the amount of PPE needed in the coming months significantly outweigh what is easily accessible. Manufacturers are doing what they can to increase production, but time is of the essence. Amidst the frenzy of demand, state governments urgently look to the private sector for help with procurement.

The epicenter of the crisis in our country is currently unfolding in New York City. If you or someone you know has access to any qualified medical supplies you'd like to donate to the city of New York, please contact and put “Covid-19 Crisis Assistance” in the subject line. Inhale Health® will qualify the materials and sponsor any shipping cost ensuring the goods go directly to the city of New York’s receiving facilities.

As masks continue to trend in the media, we felt it would add value for our community to write this overview speaking to the differences between various grades of masks so you may better understand this landscape as these commodities become central to our lives in the coming months.

“PPE”:​ Refers to Personal Protective Equipment. An umbrella term relating to respirators, gloves, gowns, and other barrier oriented gear intended to create preventative separation between medical professionals and patients.

“NIOSH”: ​Refers to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. A division of the CDC (Center for Disease Control), and part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services; the NIOSH is involved in the certification of N95 Respirators in the United States.

N95: ​N95 Facial Respirators are protective masks verified to effectively filter 95% of airborne particles that are up to 3 microns in diameter. These masks are designed to have a snug fit around the nose and mouth to minimize peripheral leakage. N95’s are commonly used in industrial applications to protect workers from inhaling ambient fumes under exposure conditions.

N95 N95 Particulate Respirator. See list of NIOSH-Approved N95 Particulate Filtering Facepiece Respirators

N95 Surgical: ​An N95 Surgical Particulate Respirator relates to a group of N95 models that have additionally been approved by the FDA as Surgical Grade for use in sterile settings such as operating rooms.

M95 Surgical N95 Surgical Respirator. See list of Approved Surgical N95 Respirators

Why certain N95 Respirators have a valve: ​Certain models of N95 have what’s called an exhalation valve on the front of the unit. This design is intended to reduce exhalation resistance and moisture build up within the mask. Valved masks are not preferred in instances in which you wish to maintain a bidirectional sterile field as unfiltered particles of exhaled air may flow outwards from the masked individual.

KN95: ​Whereas N95 is a domestic quality standard, KN95 is a Chinese quality standard. Like N95 masks, KN95's also filter at least 95% of airborne particles.

KN95 Mask KN95 Respirator

Surgical Mask: ​A “Surgical Mask” is a loosely fitting face mask intended to protect larger particles and liquids from passing between the patient and the practitioner. These masks do not provide a tight fit around the nose and mouth.

Surgical Mask Surgical Mask

As it stands today, regulators are actively discussing whether or not to formally advise the general public to wear masks. There is evidence that widespread mask use reduces community transmission of infectious disease. In the present climate of severe shortages, there is concern that if the mass population is formally advised to wear masks, this may put further strain on the shortages to front line health professionals who are in the position of greatest risk.

At Inhale Health®, it's our moral obligation to advance global health and support those in need. In the near-future, we will be offering non-medical grade supplies to our customer base to provide you access to PPE without increasing strain on the medical grade materials urgently needed on the front lines.

For the time being we want to extend a message of support, perseverance and strength to you all. In times of uncertainty and instability people show their true character. Let’s remember that we are all navigating this period together as one global community of people. Let’s respect ourselves and respect one another by following the social distancing guidelines in place to slow the spread of transmission. Let’s do what we can to help our communities, and let’s maintain a positive outlook as we weather this storm.

On behalf of our team, we want you to know that we are grateful for you all. Although our team is working remotely, we remain diligently focused on our duty to you, our community of customers. All e-commerce orders continue to ship on a timely basis Monday through Friday without delay. We will continue to monitor the situation surrounding PPE with a close eye and will reach out to you again with any further updates.

UPDATE - April 3, 2020 - The University of Tennessee Research Foundation has posted an informative article regarding sterilization of face mask and materials. Read it here: Information and FAQs on the Performance, Protection, and Sterilization of Face Mask Materials

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