There are numerous options for N95 respirators; with a valve, without a valve, cup style, vertical fold, horizontal fold, etc. All N95s are tested and approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which is a research agency within the CDC. During the COVID-19 pandemic a key performance parameter many focus on with masks is particle filtration efficiency (PFE). For N95s the specific standard NIOSH uses to test PFE is "TEB-APR-STP-0059", which all candidate N95 products must pass in order to be approved by the CDC and be recognized as an N95 respirator.
For many in the medical community a standard N95 without a valve is sufficient, but not in environments where the wearer may be exposed to fluids or aerosols. In such a case, wearers seek a special type of N95 called a "Surgical N95". Surgical N95s must be approved by the CDC and "cleared" by the FDA for use as a medical device. Two differentiating characteristics of a Surgical N95 in comparison to a standard N95 is 1) all Surgical N95s DO NOT have a valve, and 2) a Surgical N95 is fluid resistance. In addition to the tests a standard N95 must pass, a Surgical N95 must also pass an ASTM F1862 test, which is Resistance of Medical Face Mask to Penetration by Synthetic Blood. This is important in healthcare environments such as surgery and dentistry where fluid can be projected or is present as aerosols.
At RWC Health Care, our team has worked diligently to responsibly source and procure a range of authentic N95s, including the Makrite 9500-N95 which is a CDC approved and FDA cleared Surgical N95.