KN95 face masks of certified quality help insulate our healthcare heroes and other front-line workers from contracting COVID-19. With the sharp increase in demand, Chinese manufacturers are now churning out 200 million face masks daily, but the delta between supply and demand keeps growing. As a result, false replicas are infiltrating the market, often being sold at exorbitant prices.
These counterfeits are often faithful in appearance, but the difference – and the danger – lies in the permeability, flammability, and liquid resistance of the material, all of which are critical factors in its ability to filter contagions.
You'll want to confirm that the respirator face mask you’re relying on is reliable, but it’s unlikely that you’ve got access to the laboratory-level testing equipment that OSHA uses to set their N95 quality standards. These standards can be applied to the KN95 face masks, as well, as both provide a minimum of 95% airborne particle filtration.
Here are three 10-second tests for verifying the quality of your face mask at home.
What You Need: Lighter
1. Put on your face mask
2. Hold and activate a lighter six inches from your mouth
3. Try to extinguish the flame by blowing on it
Certified mask: You will not be able to blow out the flame no matter how hard you try.
Poor quality mask: You can put the flame out.
Why? Certified lab-tested KN95 masks are made of strong but breathable full mesh nylon which meets stringent standards for inspiratory resistance (<=350 Pa) and expiratory resistance (<=250 Pa). ("Pa" is short for "Pascals", the international unit of measurement for air pressure.) What this means is that the material obstructs contagions during inhaling and exhaling while allowing comfortable air circulation.
What You Need: Sweet and Low
1. Put on your face mask
2. Empty the contents of a pack of Sweet and Low on a spoon or flat surface
3. Try sniffing with the mask on and the mask off, noting any difference
Certified mask: You catch the fragrance, but only faintly.
Poor quality mask: You can still smell the saccharin in full force.
Why? A certified lab-tested KN95 mask has a filtration rate of >=95% and is designed to filter out at least 95% of particles sized three microns or larger.
What You Need: Water
1. Hold your face mask by the elastic bands, with the inside of the mask facing up
2. Fill the mask with water
Certified mask: The mask cups the water with zero leakage.
Poor quality mask: Water leaks from the mask.
Why? Official surgical masks must have a waterproof layer to protect the wearer from splashes of biological fluids. Worth noting that according to OSHA, your mask can be washed and reused as long as it "maintains its structural and functional integrity and the filter material is not physically damaged or soiled."
KN95 masks are a critical item in the protective gear toolkit for anyone interacting with others during the current COVID-19 climate – doctors, nurses, EMTs, delivery drivers, postal service workers, and employees of pharmacies, banks, and other essentials businesses. But in order to ensure safety, quality must be ensured, as well.