KN95 vs N95 Masks: Key Points
- KN95 masks are the standard in China, Japan, and Korea
- Both N95 and KN95 masks are rated to capture and filter out 95% of air particles
- Minor differences found in breathability requirements
Face Mask Comparison Chart
According to 3M, “it is reasonable to consider China KN95, AS/NZ P2, Korea 1st Class, and Japan DS2 FFRs as similar to US NIOSH N95 and European FFP2 respirators, for filtering non-oil-based particles such as those resulting from wildfires, PM 2.5 air pollution, volcanic eruptions, or bioaerosols (e.g. viruses). However, prior to selecting a respirator, users should consult their local respiratory protection regulations and requirements or check with their local public health authorities for selection guidance.”
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise worldwide, people are being asked to make lifestyle changes to curb the spread of the disease. Coronavirus spreads through respiratory droplets that are released anytime someone speaks, laughs, coughs, sneezes or even breathes heavily. For this reason, the daily protective measures we take have extended to wearing face masks.
Most governments now require (or strongly recommend) citizens to wear face masks on public transport and in shops. Not only this, but many medical professionals are also suggesting that people wear masks in public settings until doctors introduce a vaccine. Today, there are a huge number of options available when it comes to style, color, thickness and materials used. Many people wear homemade masks, which can still do their job provided they are not in the workplace or offering critical assistance to those who have already contracted Coronavirus.
Two of the most effective masks available are the N95 mask and the KN95 mask. Both masks have the number 95 in their names because they are designed to filter out 95% of 0.3-micron particles in the air. These two masks have similar names but are not to be confused with each other, so let’s look at the similarities and differences between the two.
In what ways are the KN95 and the N95 masks similar?
Both N95 masks and KN95 masks are made with multiple layers of synthetic material and, like all safety masks, should be worn over the mouth and nose. N95 masks are not designed to be reused and should be properly discarded after wearing them for one day.
In some cases, KN95 masks can be reused, as noted in one study done at the California Institute of Technology, but they did so using an ethanol-vacuum method to clean them, which isn’t possible for most of us.
Neither N95 nor KN95 masks are suitable for use on children, or adults with significant facial hair. This is because the size and shape of these masks do not offer sufficient protection.
In short, both masks are designed to capture and filter out 95% of air particles that may otherwise have put the wearer at risk of transmitting or catching a disease, such as COVID.
In what ways do the KN95 and the N95 masks differ?
A notable difference between the two lies in their certification. In the US, N95 masks are standard and must pass a thorough safety inspection from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). For this reason, only N95 masks can be approved for healthcare use in the United States, despite the technical similarities between it and the KN95.
The two masks have different breathability requirements. N95 masks tend to have stricter requirements for pressure drop while the wearer breathes in and out; therefore they must be more breathable than KN95 masks.
KN95 masks are the standard in China, Japan, and Korea, and are required to pass fit tests, with under 8% leakage. However, in the US, there is no guarantee that all KN95 respirators meet the Chinese KN95 standard. For this reason, it’s important to watch out for fake KN95 masks. These can be identified by missing approval stamps, decorative add-ons such as designs, incorrectly spelled brand names and claims that these masks are suitable for children.
So, is one better than the other?
Not really – both N95 and KN95 masks are preferred pieces of protective equipment for use by frontline healthcare and educational workers.
There are minor differences in fit and breathability, but these two masks provide optimal protection when it comes to slowing the spread of Coronavirus. In the United States, N95 masks are certified, trusted and used daily by healthcare professionals. Elsewhere, such as in Asia, KN95 are the standard.