As the ever-evolving Delta variant continues to spread around the globe, individuals are looking at what their options are in terms of the level of protection their mask provides them, outside of the everyday cloth mask. Most are searching for KN95/N95 masks, as their filters are certified to have an efficiency of at least 95%. But how efficient is the particular KN95/N95 mask you purchased?
What is the difference between a KN95 and N95 Mask?
The KN95 Mask is the imported equivalent to the N95 Mask, which meets the Chinese standard of 95% bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE) and the KF94, which meets the Korean standard of 94% filtration efficiency. And as the interest and demand for these masks grow, so do the number of counterfeit masks and poor-quality KN95 respirators on the Canadian market.
Fourteen Brands Tested
Fourteen (14) different KN95 and KN94 respirator brands from Amazon and big box stores were collected by CBC’s Marketplace (Canada’s Consumer Watchdog), and from each brand, three (3) masks were tested. Half of these masks failed, causing worry within the staff at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, where these tests for the KN95/KN94 masks were conducted.
"As a consumer in Canada right now, you can't be confident of going to a reputable vendor, buying a pack of masks with a stamp that says KN95 or N95 or KF94, and have really any confidence that those masks meet that standard, and that's a huge worry from me as an academic, but also as a consumer," said James Scott, quoted from a CBC article. Scott is a professor of occupational and environmental health who oversaw the testing.
These tests bring to light the importance of choosing a trusted, reliable retailer when searching for and purchasing your personal protective equipment. It’s still possible to receive a poor-performing product from big-name, trusted brands. When you’re choosing a mask, you’re investing in your health and the health of those around you, and it’s important to stay informed. Evidently, it is still possible to receive a poor-performing product from a popular retailer, but you can rest assured that you're receiving high-quality, reliable products that meet Health Canada's standards when you purchase from us!
What does this mean and how much do the results matter?
This depends on your personal health, occupation and the level of protection you feel confident in. The masks that fell in the much lower percentile would offer the same level of protection as a cloth mask, which is something to keep in mind when considering how much we are spending on personal protective equipment. We want to ensure that we are purchasing from a trusted retailer and investing our money into masks that offer legitimate, optimal levels of protection that are enhancing all of our other efforts to stay safe.
How can I avoid counterfeit or poor-quality masks?
1: Cut out untrusted resellers (Amazon sellers, unknown online brands, etc.)
Emergency room physician Dr. Jay Park of San Diego, Calif., advises purchasing from companies with a history in selling personal protective equipment.
It’s true that we (trusted retailers) have strong relationships with our reputable suppliers and are always on top of the latest forecasts in the personal protective equipment market. Here at PPE Supply Canada, we strive to exceed the expectations of our customers and their safety is our top priority. We are fluent in the world of PPE and continuously work hard to provide our clients with the best products on the market.
2: Avoid the FDA logo
Please note that authorized respirators are not allowed to use the FDA logo.
"The FDA logo is for the official use of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and not for use on private sector materials," the FDA website says.
3: Stay cautious of unmarked packaging with an unidentified manufacturer
The brand name, logo and company information as well as the manufacturer’s name and adress should be stated on the packaging somewhere.
"You don't want to buy something that is potentially a medical product and not know who the manufacturer is for you to be able to trace back and say OK, this is who made it and I can look up their registration or certification online," Park said.
4: Stay Informed via Trusted Sources (CDC, FDA, Health Canada)
Health Canada: Offers a list of list of authorized medical devices for uses related to COVID-19.
The FDA: Provides has a list of KN95s and other imported respirators that have been authorized for use
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Has a list of Counterfeit Respirators/Misrepresentation of NIOSH-Approval.