We can agree on this: covering your face is an excellent means of protection that reduces the risk of infection.
It is quickly and widely understood that handmade masks made of fabrics have obvious shortcomings and that the ideal for protection and cleanliness is to wear a medical-grade single-use mask.
However, the debate remains over which mask offers the optimal protection: is it a medical-grade procedure mask or an N95 or KN95 type respirator mask?
Several experts tend to value a particular type of mask, often for different reasons. This is in addition to the large volume of information shared in the media. Frankly, only scholars manage to navigate this medical and technical jargon.
Moreover, we receive several daily requests aimed at clarifying the fundamental principles behind the N95 and KN95 type respirator masks in comparison with our surgical masks.
So let's take a moment to shed light on some facts and help guide your choice of personal protective equipment (PPE):
Evaluation of the fit of the mask (fit test)
In order to benefit from 100% of the advantages of a respirator mask (N95), a fit test is required. This procedure is prescribed by the manufacturer and ensures that the mask adapts perfectly to the face of the user. These tests are unfortunately not accessible to everyone and require specialized equipment.
In the case of the KN95, remember that its name refers to the Chinese standard for this type of PPE. KN95 respirator masks are rarely fit tested. The reason? Their design reduces their ability to adapt to various facial morphologies.
In the absence of a fit test, N95 masks provide protection similar to a Level 1 3-ply medical mask with 95% bacterial and particulate filtration efficiency. Considering this, a surgical mask that meets the requirements of ASTM F2100 Level 1 provides adequate protection, and a surgical mask that meets the requirements of ASTM F2100 Level 2 or Level 3 provides superior protection.
With an excess of inventory of face coverings imported into North America, it is important to ensure that your surgical masks or respirator masks meet the local standards. Tests have shown that more than 50% of the KN95 masks tested to date by the authorities do not meet the minimum required filtration rate of 95%.
N95 respirator masks are designed to help protect against airborne particles in the ambient air. This is the reason why they are more often used in the construction industry to avoid breathing in dust and paint.
Most respirator masks are not tested for medical use; they are not rated on their ability to protect against droplets and liquids and are not tested for bacterial filtration.
Unlike surgical-grade procedure masks, respirator masks rarely come in child sizes and don't exist with clear windows, like the Humask Pro Vision.
You can find details of the official tests carried out on our high-end Humask Pro medical masks here.
Like most masks on the market, the N95 and KN95 respirator masks lose effectiveness over time, which is due to static attenuation. Therefore it is recommended to change masks every 4 hours when using a respirator.
Our Humask Pro masks offer better long-term effectiveness and maintain their soft and comfortable texture. Made in Quebec with our HuCare™ membrane that resists static attenuation, they offer better breathability compared to masks equipped with conventional filters and have the advantage of maintaining their high level of protection against fluids throughout use.
Finally, regardless of the type of mask chosen, it is important to handle and use it in a proper and sanitary manner. Also, make sure to follow the hygiene recommendations emitted by local health authorities.
Covering your face for protection is a good start, doing it with the best product available on the market is even better!