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Finding a High Quality Mask

Over time, the virus that causes COVID-19 has become more contagious. This is why the Cambridge Public Health Department recommends that residents use high quality masks when masking up indoors. These masks, also known as “high filtration” masks, do a much better job of blocking the virus than cloth or even surgical masks. Layers of filtering material trap at least 94% to 95% of viral particles.
High filtration masks come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so it’s a good idea to try out different types and brands to see what feels most comfortable and fits your face the best.

A high filtration mask can be worn for a total of about 40 hours, in short or long periods, as long as the mask stays clean and continues to fit snugly on your face.

Here is a short guide that explains the three most common types of high-filtration masks, where to buy them, and what to look for.

N95 Mask

What is it: The N95 masks filter 95% of viral particles. The masks are strictly regulated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a division of the CDC.

Benefits: When worn consistently and properly, N95 masks provide the highest level of protection from viral particles, according to the CDC.

Disadvantages: Wearing an N95 mask can make it harder to breathe. The masks are not available in children’s sizes. Fake N95s are being falsely marketed and sold as being NIOSH-approved.

Where to Buy:

  • Project N95 is a nonprofit that sells a variety of N95 masks through its website and offers a guide to help people decide which style of N95 mask is best for them. Project N95 also sells a smaller selection of KF94 and surgical masks, as well as children’s KN95 masks.
  • Trusted local retailers as well as big chain stores who typically work directly with NIOSH-approved manufacturers, so you can feel confident that the N95 masks you purchase are not fakes.

What to look for:

  • If an N95 mask has ear loops, it is probably a fake. Almost all N95 masks have two elastic straps that wrap behind your head.
  • The mask does not have all the required label markings printed on it, such as company name, model number, and NIOSH. See this CDC guide for identifying label markings.
    NIOSH is spelled incorrectly.
  • The mask has decorative fabric or sequins.
  • Claims to be approved for children.
  • For more tips, see this CDC guide for spotting fake N95s and this CDC list of fake N95s.

KN95 Mask

What is it: The KN95 is a high filtration mask designed to meet Chinese standards for medical masks.

Benefits: KN95s have ear loops instead of head straps, which many people find more comfortable. They also come in children’s sizes.

Disadvantages: There are many counterfeit KN95 masks on the market and little regulation or oversight of the product, according to The New York Times.

What to look for: A genuine KN95 should be stamped with text, including the name of the manufacturer, the model, and “GB2626-2019,” which is a reference to a quality control standard approved by the Chinese government, according to the New York Times.

Where to buy:

  • Bona Fide Masks is the exclusive American distributor of the Chinese-made Powecom KN95 mask. The company also sells N95, children’s KN95 masks, as well as surgical masks.
    KF94

KF94 Mask

What is it: A KF94 is a Korean-made mask that filters at least 94% of viral particles.

Benefits: Many people find that the design of the KF94 mask makes it easier to speak and breathe than other high-filtration masks because there is more space between the mask and mouth. The mask has ear loops, a moldable nose bridge (similar to the N95 and KN95), and an extra flap that covers the chin. They are available in adult and children’s sizes.

The South Korean government has strict oversight of mask production and approval, and there seems to be fewer counterfeits in the marketplace compared to N95s and KN95s.

What to look for:

  • The KF94 won’t be stamped with text, but the package should say “Made in Korea” and include the product name, manufacturer and distributor name.
  • Each mask should be packaged individually in a flat, glossy rectangular wrapper with a textured border.
  • The package will also have an expiration date and a lot number printed on it. If you’re buying a KF94 on Amazon, look closely at the packaging to make sure it’s made in Korea and includes the required labeling
  • If your mask comes from a Korean importer, the information on the package will be in Korean, but many companies have begun to create English-language packaging, according to The New York Times.

Where to buy:

Other Resources:

  • Aaron Collins, an engineer, who has tested masks throughout the pandemic, is a trusted source of information for families in Cambridge and around the country. Collins shares his findings with the public through his Twitter feed, his YouTube channel and his spreadsheet of nearly 450 different masks and how they performed in his tests. In the far right column of his spreadsheet, he lists trusted suppliers for many of the masks. He also has a list of children’s masks that he has tested and a video for parents about finding high-quality masks for kids.
  • Additional information on mask tips and best practices can be found here, and you can watch this video to learn more.

 

Page was posted on 2/23/2022 4:07 PM
Page was last modified on 6/1/2022 1:43 PM
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