N95 VS KN95: Part I

Close up of protection respirator for N95 Filter face mask

N95 VS KN95: Part I

This time last year, it probably never occurred to you that you would want to have some quality face masks on hand – unless, of course, you are a healthcare worker or maybe a painter. And look at you now – from N95 particulate respirators to your child’s favorite cartoon character mask, you are becoming a connoisseur of facial coverings.  

One of the questions we have been getting a lot lately is “What is the difference between N95 masks and KN95 masks?” So, we thought we would take a little time to explore that question.  


What Are N95 Masks?

The Federal Drug Administration is the authority on the different face mask designations. For a mask to be rated N95, it must block at least 95 percent of very small (0.3 micron) test particles, the agency says. So, that’s where the “95” in the name N95 comes from. 

In some professions, you need a face mask that is resistant to oil-based airborne particles. If you work with things like lubricants and cutting fluids, you know exactly what we’re talking about. If your filter has an ‘N’ rating it won’t help you much in those jobs. As the FDA explains, filter and particulate respirators that are marked with an ‘N’ are not resistant to oil-based aerosols. 

Don’t worry, though, Covid-19 and its variants do not contain oil-based particles so N95 masks might be a good choice. But, as the FDA’s experts say, “If properly fitted, the filtration capabilities of N95 respirators exceed those of face masks. However, even a properly fitted N95 respirator does not completely eliminate the risk of illness or death.”


What are KN95 Masks?

This part is easy to explain! The K in front of the N95 designation indicates where the mask was certified. So, the mask will still do the same thing as an N95 mask, but instead of being certified in the U.S. by NIOSH (The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health), it was certified in China. 

Most of us would probably prefer to have an N95 particulate respirator certified by NIOSH here in America, but there is still a shortage of PPE, so the CDC and NIOSH have authorized using KN95 masks as an alternative. 

We have more to say about N95 masks vs. KN95 masks in our next blog, so stick around!

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