As medical experts revise recommendations on the best type of masks to use against Omicron’s airborne particles, industry supplier 3M is stepping up production of its top of the line N95 masks (also known as N95 respirators).

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"As we have throughout the pandemic, 3M is committed to making sure everyone who needs an N95 has access," said Raymond Eby, president of 3M's Personal Safety Division. "3M's N95 respirators are NIOSH-approved and filter out at least 95% of airborne particles, including those that may contain viruses."

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week warned that popular cloth masks do not offer as much protection against Covid as surgical masks or respirators.  It said the coronavirus can be carried by tiny droplets called aerosols, which can linger indoors for hours.

“According to the C.D.C.’s new description of masks, loosely woven cloth products provide the least protection and layered finely woven products offer more,” said the New York Times. “Well-fitting disposable surgical masks and KN95s — another type of respirator mask — are more protective than all cloth masks, and well-fitting respirators, including N95s, offer the highest level of protection.”

Brisbane-based data scientist Jeremy Howard told the ABC’s The World Today that the evidence about masks is evolving.

"Ditch your cloth masks and also ditch your surgical masks," Howard said. "Omicron is so aerosolised, so it's such tiny particles that float in the air. When you breathe in, you're sucking in those respiratory particles."

Infectious diseases specialist Dr Paul Griffin told ABC News that N95 masks do provide more protection, but were not normally recommended for widespread use in the community because they are more expensive and challenging to wear.

As the Omicron variant spreads rapidly, 3M has been providing information about 3M N95 respirators – where to buy them, how to ensure a proper fit, and why they are considered the standard for protection. N95 respirators filter out 95 percent of all airborne particles, when used correctly.

"Fit matters. N95s need to be worn correctly to protect effectively," said Dr. Nikki Vars McCullough, vice president and respiratory protection leader at 3M. "Respirators must seal to your face to direct inhaled and exhaled air through the filter. They are designed to fit a wide-range of faces and move with your face as you talk."

3M links:

Face Coverings 101: Key differences between masks and N95 respirators 
3M disposable respirators 
3M reusable respirators
Tips for Wearing a 3M N95 Non-Valved Flat-Fold Respirator
Tips for Wearing a 3M N95 Disposable Cup-Shape Respirator
The Do's and Don'ts of Wearing a Respirator

20-packs of 3M’s P2 Cupped Particulate Respirator N95 NIOSH (8210) are available in Australia from WorkSafeGear for about $100. 

3M last month announced a new $A133 million manufacturing plant in Germany to “significantly increase the production of 3M Graphics Films for global markets including Australia.”




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