It’s almost a year now since the novel coronavirus initiated its takeover on the world and started spreading like wildfire. The Director General of the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), i.e. WHO’s highest level of alarm earlier in the year. Unfortunately, the condition is still far from normal as the vaccinations are still unavailable for the general public. Till then, safety masks or mask respirators remain the only relevant gears that can protect you against the fatal virus.
The novel coronavirus, i.e. SARS-CoV-2 spreads primarily via the respiratory droplets released by an infected person while coughing, sneezing, or talking. The best safety masks trap these droplets inside and stop them from escaping or being transferred to other people. Currently, with the demand for masks rising exponentially all around the world, the market is flooded with a variety of face masks, including cloth masks, surgical masks, triple-layer, etc. However, out of all, N95 masks are known to provide the best protection against all viruses and bacteria.
N95 masks, also known as N95 respirators, are designed to achieve a very close facial fit and are highly efficient in filtering out airborne particles. But many times, they’re confused with KN95 masks. Though they are kind of similar on the design front, the two masks are held to entirely different standards.
Both N95 and KN95 masks comprise of multiple layers of synthetic material and are designed to cover the mouth and nose completely. They are equipped with similar straps or ear loops for keeping the mask in place and both filter out and capture 95% of tiny 0.3-micron particles in the air. But, the major difference lies in their certification.
N95 is the United States (US) standard while KN95 is the Chinese standard. N95 masks are required to pass a highly rigorous inspection and certification process controlled by the National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health (NIOSH), a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). On the other hand, KN95 masks are regulated by the Chinese government but the mask manufacturers can seek approvals from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA approves KN95 masks only after authentic documentation and when the material used is furnished by the manufacturers.
Moreover, N95 masks are required to adhere to strict pressure drop requirements while inhaling and exhaling. This makes them more breathable than KN95 masks.
Both N95 and KN95 masks are highly similar in design and capabilities. However, quality tests* conducted around the world concluded that a huge percentage of KN95 masks failed in matching the quality standards of N95 masks. They were equipped with poor quality straps, stitching, and nosebands. This can be a huge compromise on the safety standard of the masks. Therefore, choosing an N95 mask is always a more preferable option.