Disposable face masks have received increased attention with the spread of the H1N1 flu virus, though they have long been used for other purposes including occupational safety. N95 refers to a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) rating that is assigned to masks that meet a specified minimum standard for particle transmission.
The N95 stylish face mask is designed to filter up to 95% of airborne particles 0.3 microns or larger that may otherwise directly enter the nose and mouth of the wearer. These masks may also be worn by people who have a contagious illness to prevent particles from leaving the nose and mouth of the wearer and putting others at risk.
N95 masks can be purchased with or without a valve to facilitate easier breathing. Optimal protection is achieved when the face mask fits snugly to the face, covering the nose and mouth without leaving open spaces along the edge.
Face masks should be fitted correctly to the wearer and not be obstructed by facial hair or jewelry. A poorly fitted face mask has greater potential to allow air particles to enter through gaps along the edges of the mask, providing lower levels of protection against the inhalation or spread of particles than a well fitted one.
Face masks are widely used for occupational safety, and are particularly common in industrial and health care facilities. Masks used in the workplace must be NIOSH-approved, meaning they meet minimum standards put forth by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.