Alternative to an N95 Respirator?
As we write this article, we are nine months into the coronavirus pandemic. And most notably, the healthcare system is still facing crucial shortages of life-saving respiratory protection and other PPE. Unfortunately, many other industries rely on respirator style masks as well, with the N95 respirator being the standard measure of quality to filter out all types of particulate matter. We wrote about the different types of masks in our Ultimate Mask Comparison Guide. However, to recap, respirators rely on two factors to ensure adequate protection. First is high-quality filtration. An N95 respirator, for instance, filters out over 95% of airborne particles, while a P100 respirator filters out almost 100%. The second important attribute is fit and seal. The mask must fit snug against the face and not allow air to go around the filter material.
Is the Woobi Mask a suitable replacement?
The Woobi mask does have a KN95 certification and does produce an excellent seal on most faces, which will mean that the effective filtration performance will be very similar. However, there are key differences that you must keep in mind, depending on your particular use case. But first, let's go through the similarities:
- External Filters rated at over 95% filtration down to 0.3 microns
- Straps that go around the head, not behind the ears
- Elastomeric (Rubber) face piece that creates a good seal / prevents foggy glasses
- Valves that protect filter material / eliminates excess heat and moisture from mask
The most popular elastomeric respirator brand is 3M. But, brands like Breath Buddy, Miller Electric, and GVS are also common. With many different models providing excellent respiratory protection. Such as; 2240377, 6200, 07002, 0725, 07182, 07124, 07192, 07191, 07024, 07024, 07177, 07178, 07161, 07162, 37077, 37078, 37079. All of which are half facepiece reusable elastomeric respirators. These respirators all have replaceable filters, inhale valves, and exhale valves. The filters you select for these face pieces could have various filtration ratings, and filters could protect against particles only, particulate and organic gases, or include other properties. These filter types mostly correlate based on the type of work performed. The Woobi mask leverages a lot of the design best practices of elastomeric reusable respirator style masks. But, there are a few key differences. A) While the micro-HEPA filters used by the Woobi have outstanding particulate filtration performance, there are no filters optimized for activities like painting or welding. B) The Woobi mask is much more compact and light and simpler to put on and take off. And C) The Woobi mask only comes in 2 sizes (Adult and Child) vs. many of the industrial masks coming in 3 (S, M, L). The Woobi Adult should be adaptive to fit a wide range of face shapes but may look small on larger faces.
We should also take a moment to list some of the most popular disposable respirators—models like 07185, 37021, and 37022. These all fall into the single-use category and are all particulate filtration without any other particular use case; some have exhaust vents, some do not. From a performance standpoint, the Woobi mask will perform quite similarly, with the main difference being that it is reusable.
While the Woobi mask is a non-medical or industrial product, you can achieve comparable particulate filtration performance. However, if your specific use case will expose you to gases, vapors, organic compounds, fluids, then the current filter options for the Woobi will not accommodate these needs. Activities like spray painting, grinding, welding, or automotive work, should NOT be performed with the Woobi mask. If your main requirement is to filter out airborne particles down to 0.3 microns, then the Woobi mask will work well for your purposes. Keep in mind that some industrial filter cartridges can last months, and the Woobi micro-HEPA filters will need to be replaced more frequently due to the compact size. Please see our recommended filter guidelines.
One area that we did not cover at all is the full-face respirator. To some degree, you could replicate similar functionality by integrating a face shield or goggles. However, your protection will be lower than a fully integrated system. Some small half-face respirators are explicitly for welding (fitting under a welder's mask). Similarly, because of the Woobi's compact nature, it can fit under face shields and other types of visors. However, as we have not tested combining the Woobi masks with any other products, the results may vary. So, please try your mask combinations before needing to use them.