KN95 Masks: Even If It Looks Safe, Is it?
We've all become aware of the number of fake and counterfeit KN95 face masks on the market both today and over the last couple of years. The CDC has stated that an estimated 60% of KN95 respirators that NIOSH evaluated throughout the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, failed to reach their intended requirements. You may view the most up-to-date list of recalled respirators by the CDC here.
Top health officials have shared with us the characteristics and details to look out for when shopping for a KN95 mask, such as identifying specific stamped information, but what do we do when the mask seems to check off all the boxes and still doesn't provide the stated filter efficiency? How can we take our evaluation of masks a step further, to ensure that what we are using is legitimate and will perform as intended?
MASKS WITH STAMPS/MARKINGS THAT STILL FAILED?
Here are some of the details the CDC has said to look out for when looking at a proper KN95 mask:
• The supplier name/logo.
• Model or size (if applicable).
• The number and year of publication of the Chinese respiratory protection standard combined with filter classification (i.e., GB2626-2019 KN95 or GB2626-2006 KN95, if the respirator was produced prior to July 1st, 2021).
You can read more directly from the website here.
When looking back at our previous article: Stay Informed! Failed Masks on the Market, the masks that were confirmed as counterfeit/not meeting their intended requirements and filtration rates by CBC Marketplace, did indeed boast these characteristics that have been stated to look out for.
CBC Marketplace tested 14 KN95 and KF94 respirator brands purchased from Amazon and big box stores such as Walmart. One of these masks was the Seal Goods 5-Layer All-Purpose Face Mask. As showcased by CBC, we can see that it failed to meet the filtration efficiency of 95%. When we look a bit more closely, we can also see that the mask is stamped with both the GB2626-2019 standard and KN95 filter classification, two details that have been confirmed as clear identifiers of a legitimate KN95.
Another brand of mask they tested was the Nan Qi Xing KN95 Mask, which also failed to meet the required filtration efficiency of 95%. Taking a closer look here, we can see that this mask is also stamped with the GB2626-2019 standard and KN95 filter classification, in addition to the supplier name/logo.
If solely following the guidance provided, these masks would have been purchased by Canadians and trusted to perform as stated.
So, now what? What can we do to take the efficiency of our search a step further?
FIND YOUR RETAILER
The first step is to find a reputable, reliable, established and trusted supplier. Purchasing masks from a marketplace such as Amazon poses a huge risk, as you have no idea where these masks are actually coming from. Amazon does not require an Medical Device Establishment Licence (MDEL) to sell PPE (of any kind) on their platform, meaning that anyone could sell masks and say whatever they would like about them.
A reputable online supplier will have an established brand and presence, they will have clear authentic reviews on their products/services and all of their website and packaging copy will be well-written and grammatically correct. Their customer service will be fast and efficient, and their communications with you, such as announcements on the website, informational pages about their products/services, clear return and shipping policies, a thorough FAQ page, email notifications and confirmations, will be strong as well. They'll have a physical address and a phone number with someone on the other side, and they will be ready to answer any questions or concerns you may have to ensure you feel comfortable purchasing from them.
Honeywell DC301 N95 Respirator Mask Made in USA (NIOSH)
KN95 Respirator Face Mask Individually Sealed
The ideal retailer will be equipped with their MDEL, so that you know that they have been approved by the Government of Canada and are working with trusted and reputable suppliers.
ENSURE YOUR MASKS ARE TESTED INDEPENDENTLY BY THIS RETAILER
Furthermore, you want to confirm that the trusted retailer you have selected has its products independently tested by an established, third-party testing facility. Taking these steps showcases their commitment to the safety and wellbeing of their customers, as these tests can be quite costly to the retailer. The retailer is then able to verify themselves, first-hand, that the masks they are offering to their customers are providing the intended and stated protection.
These retailers aren't just taking their manufacturers' word for it, they're ensuring that the only products they are providing their customers with are tested and true to their requirements. This is by the far the most important component to look into, as there is no use in purchasing a mask that has not been confirmed to perform as they are intended.
These test results prove that a KN95 mask is providing the stated filter efficiency of 95% or greater, regardless of whether the mask is stamped or not. The source and the results from the tests these suppliers have conducted are extremely important details to factor in when searching for a mask, and these should be considered before looking for specific markings directly on the product.
All of our KN95 masks have been independently tested by an established testing facility in North America. Each PPE Supply Canada KN95 Mask, both adult and children, has a minimum filtration efficiency of 95%. You can rest assured that when you purchase a PPE Supply Canada KN95 Mask, you're purchasing high-quality, reliable protection for you and your loved ones
Actual test report from Cambridge Materials Testing Ltd., showcasing that our Individually Sealed KN95 Masks indeed passed with a minimum filtration rate of 95%.
Information is constantly evolving, as life continues to ebb and flow with the state of the pandemic. Now that personal protective equipment has become a prevalent part of our daily lives, we need to not only be looking at the product itself but the source of where it's coming from. After discussing the above results from the CBC Marketplace, we now know that the source should be considered before identifying the key characteristics of the mask, and could be a more important detail to look into overall.
The right source will be able to confirm their legitimacy through their established brand and independent test results, as well as thorough and well-written information about the product.
Most importantly, you will feel confident purchasing from them.