Tips for Finding a Safe KN95 Mask
KN95 masks have become a popular option for respiratory protection among the general public. Although they share some similarities with N95 masks, they are not the same thing. The most important difference is the level of regulation: N95 masks are more tightly controlled and required to meet more stringent standards than KN95 masks.
It's critical to find a mask with good fit and filtration to protect yourself from COVID. How can you be sure a KN95 is effective? Project N95 is the trusted nonprofit source for safe and authentic KN95 masks. We have been vetting masks since the beginning of the pandemic and know what to look for—take advantage of our expertise in this article and learn about finding safe KN95 face masks.
What is a KN95 mask?
KN95 masks are high-filtration face masks manufactured to a Chinese standard—currently GB 2626-2019—that is designed to block at least 95% of airborne particles. In the United States, they are popular for personal use, though should not be used in a healthcare setting. Read our full guide on KN95 masks here for more information.
Why is it hard to find a good KN95 mask?
KN95s use a self-attestation method, meaning that any company can produce these masks but must be able to prove to Chinese regulators upon request that they are compliant. Unlike N95 and KF94 masks, they are not pre-approved for sale in any market; consequently, low-quality and counterfeit KN95 masks have proliferated, with no government agency stepping in to stop the spread.
How can I find a good KN95 mask?
The best option is to buy from a trusted source like Project N95, which has comprehensively vetted every product in the shop for safety and authenticity.
If you are looking at a different KN95 or one you already own, you can also check some helpful third-party testing data from Armbrust or the Mask Nerd—this may help you identify available KN95 models that are likely to be safe.
What else should I look for?
Check the labeling on the mask itself.
- GB2626-2006 or GB2626-2019 must be printed on the mask to indicate the standard.
- The manufacturer or brand name must be printed on the mask.
- If the mask uses the GB2626-2019 standard and that manufacturer makes more than one model of KN95, it will also have a model number printed on the mask.
Does the mask, company, or listing mention the FDA or an FDA-registered facility? Be careful! This does not necessarily mean that the product is safe or effective.
- "When a facility registers its establishment and lists its devices, the resulting entry in the FDA's registration and listing database does not denote approval, clearance, or authorization of that facility or its medical devices." Read more from the FDA here.
- The FDA does not regulate or perform quality control checks on KN95 products.
Does the mask, company, or listing mention NIOSH? Be careful! NIOSH does not regulate or review KN95 masks.
- According to NIOSH, KN95s marketed or misrepresented as being NIOSH-approved or certified "may not be capable of providing appropriate respiratory protection to workers." Read more from the CDC here.
Ready to shop? Take a look at the KN95 masks in the Project N95 shop.
Looking for more information? Read up on masking and Project N95 in articles from major publications like Axios, the New York Times, and USA Today.
NYT Wirecutter - Joanne Chen - January 13, 2022
On the mask There’s no branding. You should see the name of the company or logo right on the mask, whether it’s an N95, KN95, or a KF94. “Commercially speaking, companies are in the mask business to build brand loyalty and generate sales,” said Anne Miller, executive director of Project N95, a nonprofit clearinghouse that vets and sells masks. A blank mask runs counter to that goal. ... On N95s The NIOSH mark is missing. NIOSH—spelled correctly—should be in block letters and easily detectable.
There’s no approval number. This alphanumeric designation starts with the letters “TC-84A,” followed by four additional digits, and can be found on the mask or the bands. If there is one, check for it on the NIOSH Certified Equipment List. (Sometimes, crafty counterfeiters make one up, says the FBI. It’s also possible, though, that some might just steal one from a legitimate mask, whether or not they co-opted the branding as well.)
The Hoya - Minoli Ediriweera - February 17, 2022
Many organizations unknowingly purchase counterfeit masks, according to Project N95, a nonprofit working to make respiratory protection nationally accessible.
“The reality is that many procurement professionals simply do not have the information they need to make good purchasing decisions,” the project N95 spokesperson wrote to The Hoya. “They are usually doing their best to protect students and teachers, but knowledge about the high level of fakes, counterfeits and substandard masks is not widely known.”
Around 60% of KN95s imported to the United States could be considered counterfeit, according to Project N95.
“You cannot look at a mask and tell it is authentic,” the spokesperson wrote. “The active part of a mask is the electrostatically charged meltblown layer, and that is on the inside. What you have to do is know who made it and be assured that it is not expired.”
AXIOS - Chelsea Cirruzzo - February 25, 2022
Project N95 executive director Anne Miller says that identifying authentic KN95 masks is complicated.
KN95s, which are manufactured in China, are not standardized by U.S. regulators like N95s are. Miller encourages people to look for the international regulation code: “GB2626-2019” or "GB2626-2006" which should be printed directly onto the mask. As City Paper noted in its reporting, D.C.'s masks only say KN95 on them, but a D.C. official told the paper that the boxes the masks come in do have the international regulation code on them.
The Eagle - Skye Witley - February 4, 2022
ProjectN95 spokeswoman Jana Sanchez said her organization has “zero certainty” that the University’s KN95 masks are authentic because of the missing Chinese standard code. ProjectN95 is a nonprofit organization that vets personal protective equipment, including KN95 masks, for consumers and various local and state governments.
“I'm sure that the person who bought those for the University probably thought they were doing their very best for students, and we have to assume that their intentions were good,” Sanchez said. “But, you know, if it's me, I want to know where my mask comes from … how it was made and whether or not it's authentic.”
USA TODAY - Felicity Warner - January 14, 2021
Where to buy N95s and KN95s masks online When shopping for an N95 mask, you can check the CDC's list of NIOSH-approved N95 respirators to confirm that the mask you're looking at has been tested and meets NIOSH regulations. All masks we list as "NIOSH-approved" have been cross-referenced with the NIOSH-approved list.
You can choose to wear "industrial" N95 masks that are often sold at hardware stores. "The FDA expanded under emergency uses authorization approval for industrial respirators that are not traditionally used in healthcare settings," Dr. Cassandra Pierre, infectious disease specialist at Boston Medical Center, tells us. You'll still want to make sure that the industrial N95 masks are on that NIOSH-approved list and provide a proper, tight fit on your face.