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How Long Do N95 Masks Last (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 2 Days

Amongst the many masks that are used, N95 is widely used. It is to create a barrier between a human and an infected environment. The use of the N95 mask has increased considerably in the past year due to the rise in Corona cases.

N95 masks are an upgrade from the usual disposable facemask that is used for protection against Corona. However, the N95 mask still comes with an expiry date. Healthcare experts highly recommend that even the N95 masks should be disposed of after some days of usage.

How Long Do N95 Masks Last?

Many types of masks are available in the market to safeguard oneself from Corona. These include cloth masks, disposable masks, and respirators. N95 masks come into the category of Respirators. N95 masks are NIOSH Approved filtering facepiece respirators that are in use for multiple purposes.

N95 masks are highly recommended even by the CDC for their durability and protectiveness compared to other masks. People can use the usual N95 masks, but healthcare personnel mandatorily have to use Surgical labeled N95 masks.

The N95 masks are not washable and should be discarded once it becomes dirty. Hence, the N95 masks are to be used for a specific time limit only. It is necessary to discard the N95 masks after a maximum of 2 days of continuous usage.

The expiration period of N95 masks is only a few days because it can filter 95% of the air inhaled by a person. However, there are many conditions when N95 masks become unfit for usage. If the mask seems visibly dirty or if a person feels suffocated while wearing an N95 mask, it is time to replace it with a new one.

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The expiration period of an N95 mask can increase if it is decontaminated with proper care. Washing the N95 maks is not possible, but the disinfection can be done through ultraviolet light or vaporized hydrogen peroxide. It effectively kills all viruses and makes the N95 masks usable at least 2 to 3 times more.

UsageTime for which N95 mask can be used
Continous usage8 hours at a time.
Overall usageNot more than 2 days

Why Do N95 Masks Last That Long?

N95 masks are a part of the Person Protective Equipment of PPE. Since these masks are used for personal protection from particles expelled into the air, they are made of high-quality materials. Owing to this factor, it lasts more than the other masks. There are also several other reasons why N95 masked last only this long. The reasons are as follows:

  • Even with superior quality, the masks then get dirty when exposed to the environment. It can get contaminated due to a lot of factors. Dirt or dust is visible, but other things like viruses or bacteria attach themselves to the mask. Hence it is recommended to use the N95 masks only for a maximum of 2 days without decontamination.
  • Apart from the environment, the N95 mask also gets dirty with bacteria when a person exhales. That makes the prolonged use of the mask unfit.
  • Besides being spoiled, the mask over time becomes less efficient and is not that resilient in protecting a person. After two days, the protectiveness of the mask deteriorates considerably.
  • The N95 masks are built only for single use. Hence, the masks can be only utilized for a maximum of two days. Post two days, it is necessary to discard it.
  • After being worn for about two days, the N95 masks will not fit the face properly. That defeats the sole purpose of the mask. Therefore, getting a new mask is the only option.
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Conclusion

Although many methods can extend the usage of the N95 masks, it is not approved by the CDC. It needs to be made sure that the decontaminated masks look and feel clean. Plus, it should also fit the face properly.

Each day research is being done so that time for which the N95 mask is used can increase. It is necessary to wear a mask that fits the face properly to keep the infection away. Using the mask with care is the only option right now to be safe.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7153525/
  2. https://aip.scitation.org/doi/abs/10.1063/5.0023940