Types of masks and respirators

illustration of woman wearing N95 mask

NIOSH approves many types of filtering respirators. The most accessible are N95 respirator, but other types (N99, N100, P95, P99, P100, R95, R99 and R100) provide the same or better protection as an N95 respirator. Lists of NIOSH-approved respirators can be found on the NIOSH-approved particle-filtering face masks website.

The CDC recommends that specially labeled “surgical” N95 respirators – a special subtype of N95 respirators that provide additional protection against hazards present during medical procedures, such as blood splattering – should be reserved for use by healthcare professionals.

Employers wishing to distribute N95 respirators to employees must follow one Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) Respiratory Protection Programexternal icon.

What you need to know about NIOSH-approved respirators

  • When worn consistently and correctly, they provide the highest level of protection against particles, including the virus that causes COVID-19. In addition, they contain your airway droplets and particles so you do not expose others.
  • They seal tightly to your face when fitted correctly.
  • It is important to choose a respirator that fits your face and seals well as not everyone fits the same.
  • Respiratory protection approved by NIOSH is assessed in relation to a specific US standard that contains a quality requirement.
  • They filter at least 95% of the particles in the air when approved by NIOSH and when you have a proper fit.

DO NOT wear NIOSH-approved respirators

  • If it is difficult to breathe while wearing them
  • If they are wet or dirty
  • With other masks or respirators


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