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The rise in coronavirus cases across the country has led to an increase in companies making face masks as government officials continue to promote wearing face masks as an effective way to prevent the spread of Covid-19. While there are a number of different options available, from lightweight face masks for running to more stylish picks, a new report says the most effective face masks are an N95 protective mask.
Also, sometimes referred to as N95 respirators, these masks should not be confused with KN95 masks, which have a similar name but are kept to completely different standards. Here̵7;s what you need to know.
Mask N95 vs Mask KN95: Similarities and Differences
Both N95 and KN95 masks are made of multiple layers of synthetic material (usually a polypropylene plastic polymer) and are designed to be worn over the mouth and nose. The straps under the ear help to hold the mask in place. Both masks must filter and capture 95% of the small 0.3 micron particles in the air (hence “95” in its name).
The main difference lies in the way the masks are validated. “In general,” says Sean Kelly, founder of NP Jersey, based in New Jersey, “N95 is the American standard and KN95 is the Chinese standard.” Because of this, only N95 masks are approved for healthcare use in the United States, although KN95 masks have much of the same protective properties.
The N95 mask must undergo a rigorous inspection and certification process by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which is part of the CDC. Companies that make KN95 masks, meanwhile, can seek FDA approval through an emergency authorization for a foreign certification that meets the 95% filtration requirement. The FDA says mask maker KN95 must also provide documentation that the masks and materials used are authentic.
According to Kelly, whose company was among those tapped by Connecticut lawmakers to provide Personal Protective Equipment for state-of-the-art frontline employees, certification of KN95 masks includes a “proper testing” requirement that tests indoor air. and outside the mask, as well as how the mask fits around your face. The N95 mask does not have these requirements to meet their standard. Still, he says, “The requirements for the N95 mask are a bit stricter in terms of the pressure drop in the mask during breathing, which makes the N95 more breathable than most KN95 masks. The N95 mask has similar exhaling requirements. These demand, “says Kelly,” make the N95 mask a little more advanced with overall breathability for users. “
Keep in mind, the certificates mentioned above refer only to the country where the standards and regulations were created, not where masks are made. Most N95 masks are still made in China. Similarly, the CDC has authorized the use of KN95 masks as a suitable alternative to N95 masks for its response to Covid-19.
The FDA has released a list of KN95 approved masks here. You can view the CDC list of N95 approved masks here.
What protects an N95 mask against?
According to a report cited by the National Biotechnology Information Center, part of the United States National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, N95 respirators have two major advantages over plain cloth covers or surgical masks. First, the report found that N95 masks are more than 95% efficient at filtering out 0.3 μm particles – particles that are even smaller than the points created when talking, coughing or sneezing – making them an effective way to filter out germs and bacteria. The study also found that N95 masks often fit better on the face and around the neck, ensuring that spots and particles do not flow around the mask. “Even if N95 filtration is unnecessary,” the report says, “the N95 fit offers advantages over a convenient surgical mask, eliminating leakage around the mask.”
The main reason for the popularity of the N95 mask is efficiency, says Kelly. “We know they work and have been used for decades, both in healthcare settings and in industrial settings,” he says, citing their use for years in everything from hospitals to laboratories to at construction sites. “When a firefighter risks their life going to a burned-out building, they enter that building dressed in all means of rescue,” Kelly continues. “They do this not only to protect their lives so that they can save others, but also to go home to their family and continue to do what they are committed to doing. Health care workers in Frontline and those who have close contact with others are no different from firefighters when it comes to getting all the tools they need to protect themselves from contracting Covid-19. The first and most important safety priority you need to take a healthcare worker is to wear a face mask approved by NIOSH N95. ”
Note: The FDA says N95 masks are not designed to be used by children or people with significant facial hair. One of the main benefits of an N95 mask is its ability to provide a tight seal around the face; The FDA says a child’s face or bearded face will not allow the mask to offer the same protection.
Another thing to remember: “They are not a magic bullet,” warns Mia Sultan, CEO of the independent preventative care company, N95 Mask Co. “While [N95 masks] provide added protection, they are not a substitute for social distancing, hand hygiene and limiting person-to-person interactions when possible. “
Are N95 masks reusable?
The N95 mask is not intended to be reused. The same goes for KN95 masks. “To my shock and concern, some people tell me they wear the same mask for days or even a week without changing,” Kelly says. “This is not only stupid, but extremely dangerous, especially if their mask was not decontaminated by one of the newer decontamination machines.”
Related: This UV Sanitizer kills 99.99% of germs on your devices
Unlike face masks of clothes, which can be machine washed and worn dozens of times, the best N95 masks are only effective when worn once or twice. You should discard the masks immediately thereafter; they are not intended to be washed and reused.
According to FDA instructions, dispose of the N95 respirator in a plastic bag and immediately put in the trash. Wash hands after using used respirator.
False Mask N95 vs Real Mask N95
There are some preliminary steps you can take to determine if the masks you buy are counterfeit. Kelly suggests six things to look for, which may suggest a “fake” or non-certified N95 mask:
- The NIOSH approval stamp is either missing or misspelled on the face of the mask
- The mask has ear loops instead of headbands (headbands are used for a stronger fit)
- The TC approval number is not listed on the mask or headband page
- The company claims approval for use by children
- There is a presence of decorative additions
- The product part number is not visible on the face of the mask
The CDC website has more tips on how to detect counterfeit N95 respirators here.
Where to buy N95 masks online
A number of companies have made both N95 and KN95 masks available online. The N95 Mask with the proper name has both types of masks available for the public to purchase. The company says its NIOSH N95 Respokare Respiratory Mask uses “advanced antiviral technology” to block up to 95% of small particles, while helping to “inactivate up to 99.9% of particles within minutes”, neutralizing germs and surface viruses to prevent exposure potential to wind and lungs. The masks are comfortable to wear and can be adjusted to fit your face, according to FDA recommendations.
NIOSH N95 Respiratory Mask, $ 89.99 (10-Pack) at N95 Mask Co.
Where to buy KN95 masks online
A handful of companies have also made their offers to include KN95 masks. Among them: personal care brand and accessories, Public Goods. The site states that its KN95 respirator masks are made of five layers of filters and use a mechanical filter to block up to 95% of harmful particles in the air away from your nose and mouth. A nose clip helps to form a tight seal around your face.
Mask KN95, $ 44 (10-Pack), available in Public Goods
Can the public buy N95 masks?
Companies like N95 Mask Co are offering N95 masks available to the public, but the question remains: with histories of hospitals and front-line workers in need of masks, they will sell them on the poor public stock for those who demand it the most?
Sultan says previous logistical problems that blocked production times for mask production have now been cleared up, and healthcare workers have been able to get the masks they need. “As supply chains are normalized and institutions no longer face the shortages seen early in the pandemic, we believe it makes sense to expand the percentage of the general population who are able to defend themselves at a higher level in an effort to further slow the spread of Covid-19, “she says, adding that the company has donated thousands of out-of-pocket masks to hospitals across the country.
Kelly, of PPE America, agrees that it is a “top priority” for the federal government “to replenish stocks for the military, FEMA, states and local governments that can then distribute those supplies to local health care systems.” However, he says there has been an increase in companies producing N95 masks in large quantities, effectively ensuring that those who need – and want – masks will be able to get them. “There is no doubt that healthcare workers should be the number one priority for distributing N95 masks,” says Kelly. “[But] things are improving and I do not believe there is a need for this drastic action as there are many N95 products available now or there will be [available] in the coming months “
As for those wondering if sites should sell N95 masks for profit, Kelly insists it is no different from what healthcare companies and the “big farm” have been doing for years. “Aren’t these companies in business creating a profit for their shareholders?” he asks. “From the beginning, America ‘s PPE was not determined to be a non – profit company and we have every right to make a profit. If we did not,” he says, “we could not be in business by do what we do best – help those who are buying quality PPE products at fair market prices. “
“Every day, we do our part to help fight Covid-19 by providing access to PPE products for those most in need,” says Kelly, citing a recent donation of “tens of thousands” of masks. Surgical in hospitals and medical organizations. “As we continue to grow and expand our services, we will continue to do our best to be there for those who need our help during these stressful times.”