Why are KN95 masks often misspelt as K95 masks? Is there a difference between KN95 and N95 masks? In this post we discuss 6 things you need to know before buying a KN95 mask.
That the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an acute shortage of N95 respirators in the US is an open secret. As COVID-19 cases continue to crop up across the country, what is the best available option for N95 respirators?
N95 respirators are certified by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety for use in operations and surgery rooms. Cloth masks and surgical masks cannot be used in place of N95 respirators as they will put the wearer at risk of infection. Unlike surgical masks which have a low filtration efficiency, N95 respirators filter out at least 95% of very small particles.
KN95 respirators, made in China, have emerged as the most suitable substitute to N95 respirators. Like N95 respirators, they offer 95% protection against small particles like bacteria, viruses, dust and smog. These respirators are approved in China for medical use.
What is a KN95 Mask?
The use of KN95 masks in the US as an alternative to N95 respirators was authorized by the FDA through this guidance in April 2020. They are also used in China and other countries as a personal protective equipment in the fight against COVID-19.
KN95 respirators are regulated by the Chinese government under performance standard GB2626-2006, GB2626-2019 and GB19083-2010. GB means China standards. They filter up to 95% of small particles and create an air tight seal around the face. The certification of KN95 masks in China requires that they pass a ‘fit-testing’. This test checks how well the mask fits around the wearer’s face.
The KN95 respirator mostly use the ear loop method of wearing the mask. It is because of this reason that most wearers find it easier and faster to wear and remove KN95 masks. Some users say they find KN95 respirators more comfortable to wear as compared to N95 respirators.
What does a KN95 mask protect against?
KN95 masks have a filtration efficiency of 95% for non-oily substances. Viewed this way, the actual effect of KN95 respirators is the same as that of N95 respirators. According to 3M, the world’s leading mask manufacturer, they are as effective as N95 respirators. The CDC also acknowledged this when they recommended them as suitable substitutes for N95 respirators.
KN95 masks offer protection against microns that are greater than 0.3 μm in. diameter. These droplets are even smaller than the particles we create while talking, coughing or sneezing. With this respiratory efficiency, KN95 masks are able to filter out germs, viruses, dust, smog and pollen.
Are KN95 masks reusable?
KN95 masks are intended for single use. The need to reuse these respirators has been caused by their limited supply as COVID-19 cases continue to crop up across the world.
Guidelines on limited filtering facepiece respirator reuse provided by the Center for Disease Control are very clear and elaborate. The CDC guidelines state that the number of times a respirator can be reused is limited by a number of factors including: fit, contamination and soiling, damage and filtration performance. These guidelines also advise against reuse of filtering facepiece respirators that are visibly damaged or contaminated with nasal secretions.
Limited FFR reuse should be differentiated from extended use. Limited FFR reuse is the practice where the same Filtering Facepiece Respirator is used for several encounters with patients but removed after each session. On the other hand, extended use refers to the practice of wearing the same FFR continuously for encounters with several patients.
With proper adherence to these guidelines and using the proper methods for disinfection and cleaning, K95 respirators are reusable. It is important to remember that the respirator should only be used and reused by one and the same person.
How are You supposed to Handle KN95 Masks?
Guidelines on the use and handling of KN95 masks are provided by the CDC. These guidelines are intended to make the respirators safe for use. If not properly handled, KN95 respirators can be a source of infection.
You are always supposed to wash your hands with soap and water before and after touching or adjusting your KN95 mask. Alternatively, you can use an alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Another safety precaution is that you should avoid touching the inside of a KN95 mask. Before you put on a KN95 mask, check to be sure that its fitting has not been tempered with.
Are KN95 Masks Effective Against COVID-19?
Guidance and advise on the use of masks as a preventive measure against COVID-19 is provided by the World Health Organization.
To determine the effectiveness of a mask against COVI-19, its filtration efficiency is considered. Masks that are considered to offer effective protection against COVID -19 have a filtration efficiency of at least 95%.
KN95 respirators have a filtration efficiency of at least 95% against non-oily substances. They are able to filter out particles that are greater than 0.3 μm in in diameter. Such particles include bacteria and viruses.
Even though the effectiveness of respiratory masks against coronavirus has not been authoritatively determined, these masks are considered as a protective measure. They help slow down the spread of the coronavirus by preventing transmission.
How do you tell if a KN95 Mask is Fake?
Unscrupulous traders are likely to take advantage of the shortage of respiratory masks in the country and offer items that are of substandard and not fit for use.
Counterfeit KN95 masks do not meet standards required of respiratory masks and will show the following signs:
- The Filtering Facepiece does not have any markings
- If the KN95 mask has an approval (TC) number or a NIOSH logo. These standards only apply to American made masks i.e. N95 respirators.
- Presence of an FDA logo on the packaging for KN95 masks. FDA does not approve or certify KN95 masks.
- If the seller makes any statement that suggests that the masks are safe for use by children
- If the respirator has decorative fabric and other add-ons.