Don't be fooled. The standard might appear the same, but there are major differences between the two masks in practice. Get the facts before deciding how you protect yourself.
We recently saw a Rolling Stone article that was secretly an advertisement for a company that sells very expensive KN95 masks. We felt we needed to clear the air and go through what the differences are between the two mask standards.
N95s are the US standard for respirator masks; KN95 masks are the Chinese standard—But That's Not All
A lot of websites point out accurately that the "K" in KN95 stands for China, and the Chinese have done their best to create a mask that is equivalent to the US masks.
- They supposedly have the same filtration efficiency: 95% of particles greater than 0.3 microns are blocked
- KN95s have an additional fit test requirement
- N95s have slightly stronger breathability requirements
Looks great, no? In a perfect world, KN95s would be a good equivalent--except there are major problems with KN95s: you have no idea if they are real.
Counterfeit KN95s Everywhere
Early in the pandemic, we at Supply Hawk did a lot of work to help hospitals source PPE from abroad. At the time there was a huge shortage of N95 masks, and to our surprise, there were many distributors in China who had N95 masks. Looking closer though, these were all KN95 masks NOT N95 masks.
Those masks are supposedly Dasheng's DTC3X N95 respirator, but instead they are KN95s masquerading as an N95. The degree of counterfeiting was so bad that even Chinese Community Party officials who we had contact with had no idea masks like these were fake (no head loops!) They reassured us repeatedly that these were authentic, but it turns out the companies manufacturing these masks were illegally labeling KN95s as N95s, and some executives in China went to jail because of this.
This is the biggest problem with K95 masks. You have absolutely no idea what you're getting. You can imagine that if the US is having trouble ensuring authentic N95s, the situation in China with KN95s is even worse... which leads us to our next point.
The FDA has Banned the Use of Millions of KN95 Respirators, BECAUSE THEY DON'T WORK
In March, the US Food and Drug Administration banned faulty masks from 65 manufacturers. Here are some details from the New York Times:
In tests of about 11 masks that the FDA had authorized to be sold to American hospitals, seven flunked. One mask removed as little as 24 to 35 percent of particles, according to a C.D.C. test on April 15.
The health agencies also tested some KN95 masks that did not have agency approval. One of these, the FDA said, blocked roughly 1 percent of the particles.
Stick to N95s
Given the lack of reliability, we highly recommend purchasing N95 masks from a reliable source. That's why we've partnered directly with manufacturers and major distributors to guarantee our supply is legitimate.