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KN-95 Face Masks
Importance of masks and respirators
Masks and respirators (personal respiratory protective devices) are essential during the COVID-19 outbreak. They help slow the spread of the disease and protect individuals.
N95 respirators achieve a minimum filtration efficiency of 95% when worn properly. The edges of the mask form a seal around the nose and mouth. N95 respirators (not medical masks) are designed to reduce the risk of inhaling hazardous airborne particles and aerosols.
In a healthcare setting, N95 respirators protect against exposure to respiratory viruses and bacteria.
The U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) evaluates, tests, and certifies N95 respirators. The masks must pass minimum performance requirements, such as filter efficiency and breathing resistance. All N95 respirators certified by NIOSH must have an approval number stamped on the mask, represented as TC-84A-####n.
Health Canada, the regulator for medical devices in Canada, accepts the NIOSH certification as an appropriate quality standard for N95 respirators used by healthcare providers.
The N95 respirator is the U.S./NIOSH standard for respirators and KN95 is the Chinese standard. Commercial-grade (non-medical) and medical-grade N95 and KN95 respirators are similar with respect to design, filtration, performance, and material standards.
Non-medical N95 and KN95 respirators
Commercial-grade (non-medical) and medical-grade N95 and KN95 respirators are similar with respect to design, filtration, fit, performance, and material standards. In Canada, it is the labelling, indications for use and claims that make a product a medical device.
Use of N95 and equivalent respirators beyond their shelf life
Most respirators have a limited shelf life; after which they should be discarded. The length of time a respirator is stored beyond its shelf life or recommended conditions of storage may affect its performance. This includes not only the filter media but also headbands and nose foam components, which may affect the seal that is created.
An expired respirator can still be effective if:
- the straps are intact
- there are no visible signs of damage
- they can be fit-tested
Health care providers should inspect the respirator and perform a seal check.