Forum Thread

Crash course and Guide for N95, KN95, and Blue masks (surgical masks)

102 250 May 16, 2020 at 11:53 PM
Deal
Score
+10
1,112 Views

Thread Details

Last Edited by Ninjaxin May 18, 2020 at 07:21 PM
+10 Deal Score
1,112 Views
*This is intended to share knowledge. While it can become extremely difficult to identify counterfeit masks, I'll list a few tips on what to look for*

(Note: this can get a bit lengthy. Feel free to add comments on any other tips you may have)

----------------------------------------

* What are all these labels on masks? N95, KN95, KF94, FFP1, FFP2, FFP3 *

These are standards that identify the level of effective filtration of particles at 2.5 microns and larger (2.5 microns = 0.0025mm -> this is like comparing 2.5 meters to 2.5 mm as 2.5mm is to 2.5microns), when the masks are worn properly!

N95 masks are a US standard that says the mask filters at least 95% of these particles.
N99 masks are a US standard that says the mask filters at least 99% of these particles.
KN95 is a Chinese standard that says the mask filters at least 95% of these particles.
KF94 is a Korean standard that says the mask filters at least 94% of these particles.

** There are some N95 masks that have been FDA approved as 'Surgical N95' masks. This means that in addition to the N95 dust masks, they also function as a Blue Surgical mask by being resistant to fluids at specified pressures**

FFP1, FFP2, and FFP3 are EU standards:
FFP1 - 80%
FFP2 - 95%
FFP3 - 99%

Note:
N95 technically originates from Niosh95 (N standing for Niosh), but now the term is loosely used on masks that are supposed to meet the same performance as Niosh approved masks. Actual Niosh approved masks and N95 differs in that the mask has passed Niosh testing standards and Niosh has granted the manufacturer approval to manufacture masks with a unique approval number.

Equivalencies: N95 = KN95 = FFP2; N99 = FFP3

Also note that the FDA has rescinded a lot of KN95 manufacturer approvals to use in the US. Here are some useful links on testing results:
https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/r...sults.html

Current Authorized non-Niosh approved masks
https://www.fda.gov/media/136663/download


----------------------------------------

What are signs to arouse suspicion in the product and what to look for.


1) 'Niosh approved N95 masks'
If a product or ad says that it is a Niosh approved N95, make sure that the mask clearly prints 'N95', the brand, and the Niosh approval number. All approved masks can be searched here by approval number:
https://wwwn.cdc.gov/niosh-cel/

If an advertisement is claiming to be a Niosh N95 and it doesn't have the niosh approval number clearly printed on the mask (in rare cases like Moldex, they'll print these on the headstraps)

2) If a product or box mentions that it is a N95 mask as well as mentioning it is some level of FFP1/2/3 rated. Masks are manufactured specific to their audience. EU audiences will have FFP ratings and US audiences will have 'N' ratings.

3) If a mask says nothing on it, ESPECIALLY 'KN95' masks.

4) Masks that say 'KN95' or even 'KN95 GB2626-2006' and 'EN149'. There is no real way to know the authenticity of this. With the sudden rise in demand of face masks around the world, a lot of factories have switched to making masks and it is too common for these factories to stamp labels like 'N95' or any other stamp declaring a standard.

For these KN95, the only way (with a high confidence) is to trace the origin of the product by looking for the namebrand and seeing if that brand is a private label (and investigating their source) or if they are the manufacturer, investigate them. In the section above, I posted a link to a list of FDA approved KN95 manufacturers.

For N95, the same applies. There are so many factories pumping out masks that just stamp them as 'N95'. One huge red flag is if it's labeled as 'N95' and it has earloops - N95 masks are headstrapped. A lot of these manufacturers making counterfeits will use N95 and KN95 interchangeably. Beware! Sometimes these companies selling counterfeits are not necessarily ill-intended. It is a common practice/cultural difference where they'll market them with these standards because in their eyes their product looks and functions the same as authentic ones.

5) Search Authenticity/Legitimacy:
In my searches for sourcing legitimate N95 and KN95 masks, almost every manufacturer said they had no documentation to prove their products or they provided documents that were either clearly printed themselves because their documentation IDs were not found in online databases or because the text was clearly printed in an odd looking font. I found several manufacturers provided authentic documentation, but I realized that they were impersonating authorized manufacturers. There are less stringent certifications for EU masks. Basically if a factory is able to meet some EU manufacturing requirements, they print the 'EN149' standard on the mask even if the mask itself doesn't perform at FFP standards. Niosh has tougher requirements as they test actual mask models and provide unique approval numbers that are searchable.

6) If everything seems to be in order on the product, meaning it has a brand you recognize, a niosh number printed, and no red flags anywhere, do a google image search of that model and compare it with a sample image from that manufacturer's image. If you're at this point, the only visible signs you will be able to distinguish are the sharpness of the text or text alignment differences.

7) KN95 masks in general are very difficult to validate. Because of the recent acceptance of KN95 masks due to N95 shortages, millions of counterfeit KN95 masks have infiltrated supply chains of well-known US stores and distributors. Prior to the pandemic, there were a set of manufacturers that produced quality N95 masks and there wasn't much of an issue dealing with counterfeits. Now with a sudden need for alternatives like KN95s, manufacturers took advantage of this early on and pushed large quantities (not sure of how many millions) of knock-offs into the supply chains of very reputable US stores/sellers undetected. Like I mentioned in #5, I've encountered many manufacturers impersonating authorized manufacturers.

8) To sum it up, if you've gotten to this point, you've done a buttload of research and probably have found that the deal you found was too good to be true... unless the seller is well-known like Home Depot or other well-established companies.

9) "Ships from the USA" -> this means nothing more than the seller purchased them from somewhere and this bulk order is sitting in a warehouse in the US. It doesn't mean made in the US. Sometimes people can misinterpret this statement.

----------------------------------------

Realities:
The reality is that actual N95 and high performing KN95 masks are almost nonexistent because they are being shipped to the front lines. The authentic ones that are actually out there, are being sold for a minimum 10-15/mask on ebay from people who are profiteering.

Also, distributors looking to enter the mask market are very unlikely to get authentic masks because the large factories in China that are producing these legitimate masks are overloaded with orders from their regular distributors that supply to the front line. Even if you reach out to them, you will almost always be ignored or be told that there is no production capacity. So, if the seller/'store' that you're looking to buy from has never sold masks before the COVID pandemic, there's a red flag.

I have found that there are a few factories that have product that you can buy, but I can count them on 1 hand. These masks also sell for about $4/mask (at the time of writing this). So if you see KN95 masks for sale popping up now at less than $3-4/mask, another red flag as the shipping/customs costs are astronomical since the pandemic (some manufacturers are reporting that raw materials for mask production have risen by up to 300%). You can do the guestimation on the cost of masks directly from manufacturer, with huge raw material cost increases, increased customs costs and complications that state-side corporations will account for in pricing. By the time regular buyers/sellers get their hands on these masks, they're pretty unrealistically expensive.

I've read a lot of posts of people bashing masks made in China. The reality is almost all masks come from China. The really good, high-quality N95/N99 masks that we want all the way down to the cheap knock-offs that are flooding the market now. While the idea of buying US-made masks may sound appealing to some, the reality is we in the US, really have no experience in producing these products as we've always offshored these tasks. It's like asking an amazing electrician to perform a dental filling - there are learning curves to everything.

----------------------------------------

BLUE MASKS / SURGICAL MASKS

As you may have seen, blue masks have been flooding the market these days. Like N95/KN95 masks, these masks come in all forms and efficiencies. If you're familiar with the standards of surgical/procedural masks, the US standard rates them at levels 1-3. You'll see these noted on product boxes as ASTM Level 1 - 3, and you may see mentions of ASTM F2100 levels/tests. Each level is based mainly on resistance to penetration of synthetic blood by pressure. Here is a good source for light reading:
https://www.cardinalhealth.com/co...0Guide.pdf

I hate to sound pessimistic, but pretty much if you're looking at blue masks on the market, you should be seeing them as "anything is better than nothing". You'll see that ASTM levels differ mainly on the resistance of synthetic blood by pressure, but they also have filtration efficiency of 0.1 microns. If a blue mask does not denote an ASTM level, you're pretty much getting a piece of cloth with no guarantees, so again, be prepared going in with the mindset "anything is better than nothing".

For those who ask why there is a preference for N95/KN95 over blue masks, it's because they provide a firmer seal between the mask and the face. Since blue masks have decent filtration, it means that it takes some air pressure to get air through the mask itself. With this air pressure, you can imagine the scenario: restricted airflow via filtration --> leads to --> air escaping out of the sides.

If you are limited to blue masks but want to stop airleaks from the sides, some dentists have been using this technique during these times:
https://www.indiatimes.com/techno...10093.html

Also, I've found that doctors in areas with adequate supplies of masks, use n95 masks with exhalation valves. You might be thinking "Wait! you can't do that, you're spreading your germs!" But, they use these N95 masks in conjunction with a blue mask on the outside, gaining the benefit of both masks. So if you've got your hands on both valved N95 and surgical masks you can have the valve benefits of less condensation buildup with the surgical mask protecting those around you.

----------------------------------------


After reading this (if you've made it this far), you'll realize that it is incredibly hard to verify the validity of masks unless the seller can provide legitimate documents tracing the masks back to a legitimate source/distributor.

This post is to give some insight on some of these masks that are popping up everywhere, especially here on slickdeals, as well as a crash course on the current mask situation as a result of COVID.
Share
Good deal?
You gave thanks to Ninjaxin for this post.
Thank you!
Ninjaxin posted this deal. Say thanks!

5 Comments

1

Sign up for a Slickdeals account to remove this ad.

This comment has been rated as unhelpful by Slickdeals users
Joined Nov 2009
L3: Novice
102 Posts
250 Reputation
Original Poster
#2
I just came across a reputable medical provider selling KN95 masks, providing evidence to an authorized factory. They're up for about $8-9/mask. Seeing that all other essential supplies like hand sanitizers and rubbing alcohols are sold for normal pre-covid prices, it shows the difficulty of securing these as well as the continued rising price.
0
0
0
0
Reply
This comment has been rated as unhelpful by Slickdeals users
Joined Feb 2016
Savvy
1,469 Posts
212 Reputation
Pro
#3
Thanks for putting together a lot of useful info, even though a little late in the "game" Stick Out Tongue

From articles I read, a regular Joe can use a homemade mask made from a cotton T-shirt, secured firmer by placing a pantyhose over.

However, I started seeing a lot of people walking around with no masks at all lately, so this wiki might not attract the attention it deserves.
1
0
0
0
Reply
Last edited by globetrotter365 May 22, 2020 at 06:58 PM.
This comment has been rated as unhelpful by Slickdeals users
Joined Aug 2007
Temporally unavailable
35,088 Posts
4,390 Reputation
#4
Quote from globetrotter365
:
Thanks for putting together a lot of useful info, even though a little late in the "game" Stick Out Tongue

From articles I read, a regular Joe can use a homemade mask made from a cotton T-shirt, secured firmer by placing a pantyhose over.

However, I started seeing a lot of people walking around with no masks at all lately, so this wiki might not attract the attention it deserves.
anything is better than nothing

but a lot of people can't stand "their freedoms" getting infringed upon.
0
0
0
0
Reply
This comment has been rated as unhelpful by Slickdeals users
Joined Nov 2009
L3: Novice
102 Posts
250 Reputation
Original Poster
#5
Quote from fyu
:
anything is better than nothing

but a lot of people can't stand "their freedoms" getting infringed upon.
When people talk about "their freedoms", I always argue back, "Sure, you have freedoms, so long as they don't harm others. What you're doing is going to people, pointing a gun at them and rolling the dice with some Russian Roulette."

Americans have always been rebellious. That's how the country was formed. There's not much more we can do but try to educate.

Quote from globetrotter365
:
Thanks for putting together a lot of useful info, even though a little late in the "game" Stick Out Tongue

From articles I read, a regular Joe can use a homemade mask made from a cotton T-shirt, secured firmer by placing a pantyhose over.

However, I started seeing a lot of people walking around with no masks at all lately, so this wiki might not attract the attention it deserves.

Can only try to spread the realities of what's going on. Nothing more we can really do.
0
0
0
0
Reply
Last edited by finzz2dlft May 23, 2020 at 11:50 PM.
This comment has been rated as unhelpful by Slickdeals users
Joined Nov 2013
mebe
7,433 Posts
11,003 Reputation
#6
Quote from globetrotter365
:
Thanks for putting together a lot of useful info, even though a little late in the "game" Stick Out Tongue

From articles I read, a regular Joe can use a homemade mask made from a cotton T-shirt, secured firmer by placing a pantyhose over.

However, I started seeing a lot of people walking around with no masks at all lately, so this wiki might not attract the attention it deserves.
Quote from fyu
:
anything is better than nothing

but a lot of people can't stand "their freedoms" getting infringed upon.
https://twitter.com/Seattle_Dave/...7955956741
0
0
0
0
Reply
Page 1 of 1
1
Join the Conversation
Add a Comment
 
Link Copied to Clipboard