- The filtration efficiency of KN95 and N95 masks is 95%, while the filtration efficiency of KF94 masks is 94%.
- Despite the 1% difference, experts say all three masks are effective in preventing COVID-19 infection.
- KN95, N95 and KF94 masks are available through state and local distribution centers or at major retailers.
The high transmissibility of Omicron has prompted public health experts to reconsider masking guidelines. Experts are urging people not to wear cloth masks for higher forms of protection, such as N95s.
However, demand for N95 masks combined with a lack of supply has made way for the growing popularity of other types of high-filtration masks such as KF94 and KN95. All three are very similar, with only a few differences. We asked experts to explain how they stack up to each other.
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How is KF94 different from other masks?
According to Karl Minges, Ph.D., MPH, interim dean of the University of New Haven’s School of Health Sciences, the two main differences between KF94, KN95 and N95 masks are the location of the manufacturer and the filtration efficiency.
The “KF” in KF94 stands for “Korean Filter”, and the number 94 represents the filtering effect of the mask. That means the KF94 masks are made in South Korea and can filter 94 percent of particles, Mingus told VigorTip. The appearance of KF94 masks is also slightly different from traditional KF95 or N95 masks. Instead of sticking out in a beak fashion, it folds flat while still staying close to the face. Some say it creates more space between the mask and the mouth, making it more comfortable to wear.
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On the other hand, KN95 masks are made in China and have 95% filtration efficiency. The N95 provides 95% filtration efficiency and is manufactured in a CDC-approved facility in the United States or possibly overseas.
While some may argue that KN95 and N95 masks perform better due to a 1% difference, “all [KN95, N95, KF94] Effective in preventing COVID-19 infection, masks are considered high-quality,” Bernadette Boden-Albala, PhD, director of public health program and director of the UC Irvine Public Health Program, told VigorTip.
Minges said more research is needed to determine whether the 1 percent difference in filtering is meaningful.
what does this mean to you
Whether you’re buying a KF94, N95, or KN95 face shield, experts recommend that the face shield you choose is an overall fit, breathable, and regulated by federal or government agencies.
where can you buy them?
Boden-Albala and Minges said people can get the masks through state and local government distribution centers or at most major retailers like Amazon. However, they recommend checking the masks to make sure they are not counterfeit.
One way to check if a KF94 face shield is legal is to look at its manufacturer’s location. “KN94 is heavily regulated by the Korean government, so if the product is made in Korea, it’s likely a legitimate product,” Mingus explained.
How to tell if your mask is real or fake
For N95 masks, the easiest way to identify if they are counterfeit is to search for the test and certification approval number on the Certified Equipment List (CEL). All NIOSH approved respirators can be searched on CEL. Minges added that KN95 masks no longer receive an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because there is an adequate supply of N95 masks for healthcare workers. But you can check out this Food and Drug Administration (FDA) list of previous authorizations for KN95 as a starting point.
In the end, “the most important thing in mask selection is fit,” Mingus said.
The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means that you may have updated information as you read this article. For the latest updates on COVID-19, visit our Coronavirus news page.