Seeking Substitutes: Industry should seek alternative respiratory PPE amid COVID-19

Toronto, Ontario ⁠—  As 3M ramps up its production to nearly 100 million N95 respirators per month to serve medical workers on the front lines of the crisis, the company is suggesting bodyshops seek alternative masks. 

As masks for the automotive aftermarket dwindle, it is recommended that collision repairers seek alternative respirators. 

According to a statement from Penny Wise, president of 3M Canada, “90 percent of N95 respirators coming into Canada are now designated for healthcare workers and first responders, with the remaining deployed to other industries also critical in this pandemic, including energy, food, and pharmaceutical companies.” 

According to 3M business development manager Mark Algie, the BodyMan Respirator (part no. 7181 [small], 7183 [medium], 7183 [large] and 7184 [replacement filters]) offers a good alternative to N95 masks.

Using a P100 filter, the mask may not be approved for ozone, though 3M has said it offers “Nuisance level relief against organic vapours, and ozone protection up to 10 times the Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL).”

3M said it recommends the mask “for use in brake and clutch repair where asbestos exposures may be found.” It can also be used for grinding, sanding, welding and brake and clutch repair applications, says the company.

The U.S. Department of Labor has even said employers “may consider employers the extended use or reuse of N95 FFRs, or use of N95 FFRs that were approved but have since passed the manufacturer’s recommended shelf life, under specified conditions.”

Canada’s federal government also seemingly approves of using “masks and respirators that aren’t approved in Canada,” according to Health Canada’s website.

“Manufacturers and importers may wish to import masks and respirators that haven’t been approved,” reads the statement. “Non-compliance means the product: is past its expiry date, is a non-medical grade, may not have a bilingual label.”

3M has accelerated the production of its masks since the outbreak to produce more than 1.1 billion respirators per year or nearly 100 million per month, according to the company.

Last Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump used the Defense Production Act on 3M to stop the company’s export of N95 masks to Canada and Latin America. 3M responded in statement, saying that such a move could cause other countries to “retaliate” with similar measures.

“Ceasing all export of respirators produced in the United States would likely cause other countries to retaliate and do the same, as some have already done. If that were to occur, the net number of respirators being made available to the United States would actually decrease,” said 3M. “That is the opposite of what we and the Administration, on behalf of the American people, both seek.”

Further, 3M noted that the price of its N95 masks has remained the same throughout the crisis.

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