Cut through the confusion surrounding PPE with our helpful guide - Face Masks 101. The technology for today’s face masks generally comes from the medical industry. A face mask is a medical device. When consumers use a mask to attempt to protect themselves and their peers from CV-19, they are deploying the technologies developed to keep doctors (and their patients and staff) safe in and around the operating room, and are even used in tangential areas like the waiting room.
THE DIFFERENCE: MEDICAL VS. CONSUMER MASKS
Many of the best face masks such as the N95, N99, and N100 respirators are currently reserved for healthcare workers. Incidentally, the much referenced N95 was a model developed in the 1970’s by 3M for industrial use, and subsequently adopted by the medical profession. In case anyone is wondering, the numerical “95” represents that the mask is capable of filtering 95% of airborne particulates, including viruses, while the “N” standard means that the mask does not require the standard of being resistant to oil particulates. The N99 and N100 actually provide higher levels of particulate filtration, but with a trade off on the wearer’s ability to breathe freely.
However, there are some good masks available for consumer use also which use some of the exact same materials and are very effective. Equally, there are many shoddily made products produced in poor grade factories using inferior materials, or made at home that do little to nothing to protect the wearer.
The chart below outlines the effectiveness of various types of masks, including the 2 varieties that Blue Bear makes available to the public:
DEMYSTIFYING MANUFACTURING IN CHINA
China is the source of most masks today because they have had years to set up the infrastructure to build quality masks at scale, and culturally, the face mask is a common site throughout China, especially in airports and other travel hubs. However, there is a wide range of quality depending on which supplier is sourced. The disposable surgical masks look nearly identical on the outside, so most buyers and consumers often think they are all the same. This is far from true. A key component of effective disposable masks is the middle layer of a 3-ply product , which should be constructed of melt blown fabric, acting as a filter for particles.
IMPORTANCE OF MELT BLOWN FABRIC
The melt blow fabric forms the inner filtration layer that filters out hazardous particles, and protecting both the wearer and those in close proximity to the user. Melt blown fabric was developed in the 1950s and has decades of data that support its efficacy in screening out pathogens, yet allowing oxygen in to make the experience comfortable. Though invented in the U.S., China currently produces 40% of the world’s melt blown fabric.
BLUE BEAR FACTORY IS USA QUALITY INSPECTOR APPROVED
Factories tend to specialize in one type of mask. Of the nearly 150 factories that produce masks in China, less than 20% have met American quality standards. Our factory is one of them. But, being on the white list, though important, doesn’t give you specific performance specifications. To do that, you need to go to an objective, third-party laboratory. Our independent test results concluded that our disposable face masks screen out 99.58% of all particulate matter, enabling us to provide a high performance product to the general public at a reasonable price.
It doesn’t help much to have a good product at a good price if you can’t get the product to market in a reliable, timely basis.
With PPE demand through the roof, supply has been notoriously inconsistent around the world. So how does anyone solve this big problem of market fragmentation throughout the supply chain? Scale, of course. And dealing with China in particular, can as we all know, be somewhat challenging. Yet, that’s where most of this product is being made, and that’s where you can get scale, so the question is not if you should deal with China, it's how. And more importantly, who. Our team has been on the ground in China for nearly 15 years.
We know how the market operates, we know the players in both the private and public sectors, we have lines into the 300 people with the red phones who have the final say on all matters in China. In short, we can ensure stability and consistency of product, and on the off-chance that something temporarily comes up which produces the unexpected, you can count on us first-off to be completely transparent, and secondly, to get it fixed fast.
CREATING A TRUSTED BRAND
There are now suppliers of face masks it seems coming out of the woodwork. Opportunists preying on fear and uncertainty are everywhere. Now that we’ve discussed tangible issues such as quality and distribution, let’s go to an intangible issue that is perhaps more important than everything else put together, the brand.
Procter & Gamble famously said once that their brand names were more valuable than all the factories, inventory, cash, and other tangible assets all put together. We couldn’t agree more. That’s why our aim is to build the most respected brand in PPE. This category isn’t going away any time soon. The long play is for sellers to partner with the brands that will be here for the long run. When it comes to your and your family’s health and protection, what could be more important than a trusted brand?
GET IN TOUCH WITH BLUE BEAR
Looking for help to prepare your business for reopening or just want some more information? Get in touch and a Blue Bear representative will help you with all your PPE needs.