CDC approval delays are tying up N95 supplies, mask-makers say

The CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health faces a backlog of applications from manufacturers seeking regulatory approval for N95s and other air-filtering masks, Roll Call reported Jan. 19.

In total, NIOSH has yet to review 142 mask applications, including dozens specifically for N95 masks, which the CDC say are more effective than cloth masks to prevent omicron's spread.

Manufacturers need NIOSH's approval to advertise N95 masks on social media sites, where ads for cloth masks or counterfeit N95s are widespread, according to Roll Call. Some mask manufacturers say the delay is causing mask supplies to build up in their warehouses. 

"NIOSH should make their way through the backlog and approve (or disapprove) more masks! More choice is good for consumers," Megan Ranney, MD, academic dean of the Brown University School of Public Health in Providence, R.I., told Roll Call.

NIOSH's team that regulates respirators has 88 staff members, 35 of whom are working full-time on approvals, an agency spokesperson told the publication. Last year, the agency received 139 N95 approval requests from new companies. Before the pandemic, NIOSH only saw six to eight new requests a year. 

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