The surprising origin of the N-95 mask
  • Alysa Salzberg

The surprising origin of the N-95 mask

The N-95 mask is a ubiquitous sight nowadays, but most of us probably haven’t given much thought to where it comes from.

Luckily, one journalist did – and it turns out the history behind the mask is pretty surprising.

The N-95’s origins go back to the products created by a woman named Sara Little Turnbull, who worked for the 3M company. In the late 1950’s, she presented them with a list of no less than 100 ideas for items that could be created with a material called Shapeen. The most important of these for Turnbull was a medical mask that could comfortably fit onto the wearer’s face (a molded bra cup, a similar concept, was another of Turnbull’s designs).

At first, Turnbull’s invention wasn’t used in the medical field, but as a dust mask. Then, with the development of filters, it became the high-end protective gear we know today.

Read on to learn more about Turnbull and the origins of the N-95 mask.

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