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N95 Face Masks vs KN95 Face Masks

N95 Face Masks vs KN95 Face Masks

There is a lot of confusion surrounding the differences between N95 and KN95 face masks. The names are almost identical, so they must be the same, right?

At its core, yes they do similar jobs. However, the N95 meets the United States standards for respirators, whereas the KN95 face masks meet the Chinese standards. But there is more to it. Don't panic, we're going to clear everything up for you here. Ready?

Let's dive into the details.

The Tests

NIOSH N95 Face Masks
At this point, N95 face masks are tested and signed off by the FDA (The US Food and Drug Administration) and NIOSH (The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health). With some brands, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is also involved but isn't typically mentioned.

These face masks are tested for their efficiency in the following domains:

  • Respiratory protection
  • Filtration
  • Flammability
  • Bio-compatibility
  • Fluid resistance

Both NIOSH and the FDA work together when characterizing the masks under N95 as a class 2 medical type of PPE (personal protective equipment).

KN95 Face Masks
As you have probably already gathered, these are tested by the Chinese government. To tell you the truth, KN95 masks are approved based on identical characteristics to the N95 masks. But, they are only tested on their filtration and respiratory protection. So, yes, you could argue that they aren't as rigorously scrutinized.

Having said this, they are available across the globe and have proved to be very effective.

The Design

NIOSH N95 Face Masks
These are made from polymer fibers and aim to create a seal around the whole face, focusing on the nose and mouth (this probably goes without saying). The manufacturing process is quite in-depth as they use a method called "melt blowing".

The head straps tend to be the standard rubber, connected to the mask via staples. Plus, for your comfort, there is a band of PUR foam on the bridge of the nose.

Certified KN95 Face Masks
These are made from non-woven fabric but the same process — melt blowing — is used to ensure the highest quality possible. All legitimate KN95 masks will come with 3, 4 or 5 layers but some web sites are stating that 5 layers is the required level. But nowhere is it stated that 5 layers is required to receive a GB2626 certification. There are 3 layer Certified KN95 masks that pass the 95% effective filtration test.

The fabric is waterproof and ensures zero allergic reactions thanks to the hypoallergenic properties. Some masks cause loads of acne around the mouth and chin but this almost guarantees no irritation!

The Purpose

NIOSH N95 Face Masks
Donning an N95 face mask will protect you from aerosols and airborne particles of a certain diameter. Therefore, it may stop you from contracting any diseases, viruses, or infections that come from them. By the same token, they also stop you from inhaling any pollution or allergens.

Certified KN95 Face Masks
Again, these do the same thing. Respiratory protection is key for any face mask and both the types we're talking about here do just that. However, KN95 models also keep you safe from smog, dust, and minute pollution particles. If you've ever traveled to Asia, you'll have seen them worn by everyone in heavily polluted cities.

The Efficiency

NIOSH N95 Face Masks
Test results have shown that the masks have to a 95% minimum effective at filtering potentially harmful airborne particles. Extensive laboratory experiments showed that if oil particles are involved, the filtration effectivity drops considerably. During these times, it has been more essential than ever for masks to be efficient in healthcare environments — and the N95 models have proved to be the best.

Certified KN95 Face Masks
These are just as efficient at filtration as N95 masks (minimum 95%). You can safely use them to help protect yourself against bacteria and other airborne particles. But there is a catch. Once they've been sterilized, their efficiency level decreases to around 50%. Not as good as the N95 masks!

Who Should Wear Them?

NIOSH N95 Face Masks
As a member of the public, you shouldn't be walking around with one of these. Why? Because those who work in the medical profession need them first and foremost. That does not mean to say that it's illegal for you to wear them, the government is just asking you to be respectful towards our healthcare staff.

You should, of course, be wearing a mask of some kind at all times when outside as a courtesy to everyone around you.

Certified KN95 Face Masks
As above the CDC recommends NIOSH N95 masks only for medical personnel only. That leaves Certified KN95 masks, The CDC recommends that members of the public use simple cloth face coverings when in a public setting to slow the spread of the virus, since this will help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.

For more information, see the CDC’s Recommendation Regarding the Use of Cloth Face Coverings, Especially in Areas of Significant Community-Based Transmission. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, the CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions, such as hand washing and maintaining at least 6 feet of social distancing, to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases.

How to Store Them?

NIOSH N95 Face Masks
You should store the masks in a breathable, sanitized location. Think airtight containers! If you fancy it, you can go down the proper surgical boxes but that isn't completely necessary if you aren't a healthcare staff member.

You need to keep them away from storage in high humidity conditions. So if you are in Florida, keep them in an air-conditioned environment.

Certified KN95 Face Masks
The same applies here. As long as you store the masks correctly, you can reuse them for around five days at a time.

The Price

NIOSH N95 Face Masks
These are the more expensive model by a fair amount. It depends on personal preference as to whether you invest a little or a relatively high amount in your respiratory protection.

They can cost up to $6.99 each, which is around 4 times higher than a Certified KN95 Mask.

Certified KN95 Face Masks
These are cheaper. They're readily available too. However, you should be aware that healthcare staff should get first pick!

Which Specific Brand Should You Buy?

NIOSH N95 Face Mask
3M Particulate Respirator 8511. If you are looking to get an N95 face mask, you can't go wrong with the 3M Particulate Respirator 8511. It has a Cool Flow Exhalation Valve that stops an unnecessary amount of heat building up behind the mask. The section for your nose closely comfortably yet securely over the bridge and somehow, they've managed to reduce the number of pressure points it hits!

Certified KN95 Face Mask
Eimo 9570K. While this one doesn't have an exhalation valve, it does its job well and it is NTTPL tested (sub division of NIOSH and the CDC). The nose clip is adjustable yet sticks in position firmly. Plus, the hypoallergenic materials used ensure an irritation-free experience.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, you need to be wearing a mask. Whether you go for a NIOSH N95 or a Certified KN95 is completely up to you but please be wearing something!

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