First Emergency Facemasks for the Public Cleared

They reduce exposure to airborne germs

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WEDNESDAY, May 9, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first face masks (respirators) designed to prevent a user's exposure to airborne germs during a public health emergency.

The products, made by the Minnesota-based 3M Company, will be available without a prescription. They've been certified by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as N95 filtering facepiece respirators, fitting tightly over the nose and mouth and designed to trap at least 95 percent of very small airborne particles, the FDA said.

While other companies make N95 devices for the workplace, the 3M products are the first to be cleared for public use during health emergencies such as a flu epidemic, the agency said.

The approved respirators are designed for adults and may not properly fit small children, the FDA said. It also warned that people with heart or lung disease may not be able to breathe properly through the single-use devices.

More information

Visit the FDA to learn more about this approval.

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