3M, others may have unmasked a solution to future N95 shortages

A handful of companies including 3M are working to ensure that a scramble for disposable masks never happens again.

MSA Advantage elastomeric respirator (Image courtesy of MSA Safety)

The face of the next pandemic could be very different than that of COVID-19, thanks to a handful of companies that have redesigned reusable industrial face masks to better protect healthcare workers and help prevent mask shortages.

The makers of reusable elastomeric half-mask respirators designed them for industrial use with two inhalation valves flanking an exhalation valve. The exhalation valve enables wearers to breathe out comfortably and keeps the rubber masks from becoming too hot. Some healthcare workers began wearing them during the COVID-19 pandemic, but in June, the FDA stopped allowing the use of masks with exhalation valves in healthcare settings because they may spread virus particles from infected wearers.

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