The use of face masks is important in both preventing and controlling the spread of respiratory diseases, including the novel coronavirus. However, unlike hand hygiene measures and social distancing, the use of face masks has caused a bit of controversy, especially in the western world.
Actually, it was not until the later days of March that wearing face masks was encouraged by health authorities in the United States and other European countries. Drastic measures like lockdowns not doing much to flatten the curve and the procedural growth of the pandemic have prompted many health authorities to re-evaluate the importance of face masks.
To be fair, officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) argued that they had little insight into how the virus spread and thus could not encourage face masks as a measure to fight the virus.
While politicians are bickering about the efficacy of face masks and some people even staging protests against wearing them, overwhelming evidence from scientific studies supports the idea that face masks are important in fighting the spread of Covid-19.
At present, medical professionals around the country are struggling with a low supply of protective masks. In response, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed the use of a more widely available mask known as the KN95 mask.
The KN95 mask is a different version of the N95 respirator masks and they are made in China, which is the origin country of the virus. But how effective are they? Let’s break it down.
What Are KN95 Respirators
The KN95 is the Chinese alternative of the American N95 face respirators. The KN95 is a form-fitting mask that shares similar performance standards as the N95. However, it is not under regulation by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
The KN95 mask is specifically designed to fit tightly around the face and is capable of creating an airtight seal. It’s because of this ability that a lot of people seem to favor its mask design. It has an earloop to make wearing fast and easy, and it fits very well from the chin to the bridge of the nose.
The Anatomy of the KN95 Mask
The KN95 has multiple layers made of high-quality nonwoven melt-down fabric and hot air cotton, offering 5-layer protection. The layers serve as a particle and hypoallergenic filter, making it highly efficient in its purpose.
The nonwoven fabric is hydrophobic, meaning it is water and droplet-proof. This feature is highly convenient considering that one of the ways that Covid-19 spreads is through the transmission of contaminated oral droplets. The hot air cotton is soft, making for low air velocity.
As mentioned earlier, it also has an elastic earloop. This ensures that it is tight and fits firmly on the face, from the chin area to the nose. It also has a 3D foldable design and its nose bridge is modifiable to ensure a firm fit to the face.
How Does the KN95 Mask Work
The multiple layer protection of the mask ensures that it stops at least 95% of particles at least .3 microns in size. This means it protects the wearer against fine particles such as human hair, dust, pollen, and any airborne particles. Viruses can range between .2 and .3 microns in size.
Like all masks, the KN95 requires the wearer to be clean-shave for it to create a tight seal. They’re also lightweight and disposable so bear in mind that they’re designed for one-time use. However, because of the shortage, the CDC recommends using the mask at least once as a crisis capacity tactic.
The KN95 masks are created to have a filtration efficiency of 95%. This makes them better than PM 2.5 filter masks offer a filtration efficiency of 60% and just as good as surgical masks and N95 masks which have 95% filtration efficiency.
Can KN95 Masks Protect You From COVID-19
The answer to this burning question is yes, the KN95 mask can help protect you from contracting Covid-19. One way the virus spreads is through small respiratory droplets that are released when a carrier exhales, coughs, talks, or sneezes. An uninfected person can get the virus through inhaling the respiratory droplets containing the virus.
With a KN95 mask on, you are protected from the risk of inhaling these droplets because your nose and mouth will be covered by the mask.
Imagine that your face is a safe vault, the virus is a robber, and your mask is the door to the safe. The door to your safe should be as thick as possible so that the robber will have a hard time trying to get past the door. KN95 masks provide this functionality because they are made from multiple layers.
You should also factor in the seal between the door of the safe and its frame. If there is a large gap in between, then the robber can easily access the safe vault. The KN95 mask is designed to create a tight seal around the face of the user.
This efficient design ensures that airborne particles do not go past the mask and onto your nose or mouth. It is recommended that medical practitioners have to undergo fit testing to make sure their KN95 masks create a tight seal before use.
Watch Out for Counterfeits
With the influx of different brands of masks into the market and shortage of authentic masks, you’ll find that not all KN95 masks in the market are of sound quality. To see whether a KN95 mask is authentic or not, here’s what you need to do.
A high-quality KN95 mask should melt instead of igniting when exposed to fire. It should also limit the airflow going out and in the mass. To test this, try blowing out a lit candle by blowing through the mask. And yes the mask passes the test, you can’t blow off a candle with KN95 Mask On….
A KN95 mask should also be waterproof. Fluids you should not be able to pass through. You can confirm this by pouring water into the mask. A counterfeit mask will allow water to flow through while a certified one will absorb all the water.
Hopefully, with the information highlighted above, you can distinguish between N95 and KN95 masks with ease, as well as tell whether a KN95 mask is certified or not.