What’s The Difference Between N95 and KF94 Masks?

N95 vs KF94 Mask Ratings

The difference between N95 and KF94 masks are minor for the factors that most users care about. KF94 is the “Korea filter” standard similar to the US N95 mask rating.

Difference Between N95 and KF94 Masks: Charted Out

They look similar, and they filter a nearly identical percentage of particles—95% versus 94%. This chart from 3M explains the differences between the N95 and “first class” Korean masks. The columns highlight these two types of mask.

Difference Between N95 and KF94 Masks

On the metric that most people care about (filtration effectiveness), they’re nearly identical. In most circumstances, mask users will not care about a 1% difference in filtration.

KF94 Standards Borrow More From Europe Than US

However, of the differences between the standards, the Korean standards are more similar to the EU standards than the US standards. For example, US certification agencies test filtering performance using salt particles, whereas European and Korean standards test against salt and paraffin oil.

Paraffin Oil Mask Testing Standards Ratings

Similarly, the US tests filtration at a flow rate of 85 liters per minute, whereas the EU and Korea test against a flow rate of 95 liters per minute. However, these differences are minor.

Other Differences Between Mask Ratings

Besides the 1% difference in filtration, there are some small differences on other factors.

  • For example, the standards require N95 masks to be somewhat easier to breathe out of (“exhalation resistance”).
  • Korean masks are required to test for “CO2 clearance,” which prevents CO2 from building up inside the mask. In contrast, N95 masks don’t have this requirement.

However, concerns about CO2 buildup may be overblown. For example, one study found that, even during moderate exercise, women wearing N95 masks had no difference in blood oxygen levels.

  • To get the mask label certified, Korea requires human fit-tests, like the one I’m doing below. The US N95 certification does not require a fit test.

N95 Mask Fit Test

However, that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t do fit tests with N95 masks. The US agency that regulates workplace safety (OSHA) require workers in certain industries to get fit-tested once a year. It’s just that fit tests aren’t required for the manufacturer to get the N95 label.

N95 vs. KF94 Masks: Bottom Line

On the factor that most people care about (filtration) N95 and KF94 masks are nearly identical. However, there are small differences in other factors, such as breathing resistance and fit-testing.

Everything you wanted to know about masks, but were afraid to ask about KF94 or KF80

From left: A man wearing a face mask looks through different brands of face masks at a convenience store in Seoul. Rolls of polypropylene fabric used to create filters are piled up in the corner of a factory. Staff at E&W do a final check of face masks produced from their factory. Face masks are displayed on the shelves of a convenience store in Seocho District, southern Seoul. [BGF RETAIL, CHOI EUN-KYOUNG, MINISTRY OF FOOD AND DRUG SAFETY, JEONG JIN-HO]

The latest coronavirus epidemic has sent people scrambling for protective face masks. Walk along the streets of Seoul and you’ll see people wearing a dizzying variety of masks, occupying a range of colors, styles and functions. But why are they so different, and how effective are they?

Mask materials

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety classifies face masks according to three categories – commercial, medical and industrial. Fabric masks worn for insulation fall into the first category. Medical face masks are certified by the government and are divided into two sub categories, surgical masks and hygienic masks.

Industrial masks are worn to protect individuals from particulate pollution, or “micro dust.”

Surgical masks, also called dental masks, are used to protect medical staff from contamination. Hygienic masks have received substantial attention recently. They are used to protect the user’s airway from airborne pathogens.

Hygienic masks are rated based on their intended use and the level of protection they provide. Face masks rated KF80 are used to protect users from fine dust. Those with a higher level, most commonly KF94 and KF99, filter out smaller particles and are used to avoid infection.

A hygienic face mask consists of a filter sandwiched between two layers of fabric. While the material used to make filters can vary by brand, they are typically composed of polypropylene. The filter material is produced using a technique called “melt blowing,” in which tiny, molten fibers are blown at a high speed and are deposited randomly to create polypropylene fabric. Polypropylene creates static electricity to capture airborne particles.

The designs vary, but can be generally classified by whether the filters are replaceable. Either category may also have small valves attached for easier breathing.

Hygienic face masks are all one-size-fits-all. Experts advise children to use a mask with straps that can be tied behind their head. This can increase adhesion while reducing pain behind the ears.

Filter levels

Different countries use different metrics to indicate the level of protection for face masks. Those marked “KF,” for Korea Filter, have been certified by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. The numbers that follow a KF signature indicate its effectiveness in filtering out fine particles.

A KF80 mask can filter out more than 80 percent of fine particles, defined as having an average diameter of 0.6 micrometers. They are frequently used to protect users’ respiratory systems from fine dust pollution. KF94 masks can filter out 94 percent of 0.4 micrometer particles, and KF99 can filter out even smaller particles, like viruses.

Masks are tested for leakage of two materials, sodium chloride and paraffin oil.

“We generally divide airborne particles into two types, mineral substances and oily substances. We use sodium chloride to test for the first type and paraffin oil for the second type” said Song Eun-ho, a manager at local mask manufacturer E&W. He added, “To protect from oily particles, it is best to use a face mask rated higher than KF94.”

Other countries use a different rating system. For some, masks receive one of three ratings – N, P and R. Respirators are rated “N” if they are not resistant to oil, “R” if they are somewhat resistant to oil, and “P” if they are strongly resistant or oil-proof. Masks rated N have a similar protection level to Korea’s KF80, since it is not tested for paraffin oil protection.

Europe also uses three ratings. FFP1 masks can filter at least 80 percent of airborne particles, while FFP2 can filter around 94 percent and FFP3 filters out 99 percent.

But higher rating numbers do not guarantee comfort, experts say, and they can be more uncomfortable to breathe in since they fit tighter around the face. The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety conducts a face-fit test for certified masks, to calculate the amount of air leakage around the edges. Higher protection means less leakage which can cause discomfort to individuals since inspiratory pressure increases with every breath.

Proper usage

The ministry last Wednesday announced a set of guidelines for how to properly wear masks.

The guidelines recommend individuals with jobs that require a lot of human contact wear masks rated above KF80. This includes medical personnel, sales people and delivery people. According to the government, thermal masks can be a reasonable alternative.

“When we look back at the MERS [Middle East respiratory syndrome] outbreak, there was a huge difference between groups that wore a mask and other groups that did not” said a ministry spokesperson.

Opinions differ when it comes to reusing masks, but the ministry says it’s best to buy a new one. Masks used more than once may not be as effective and can be unhygienic, since moisture from our breath can cause bacteria to grow inside.

“Please wash your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before putting them on,” the guidelines stated. “Always check for gaps around the edges. It is always best to keep your hands away from the masks while they are on.”

LOS ANGELES, June 25, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Since the sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic the United States has faced a supply constraint of quality N95 masks.  With the continued difficulty of being able to secure N95 designated products, health officials have been encouraging business and public consumers to find FDA certified “substantial equivalents,” such as the Air Queen mask to help address this shortage.

The term N95 basically means that a face mask will filter at least 95% of airborne particles and it is widely considered the gold standard of face coverings to protect individuals against harmful pathogens and other environmental contaminants. Traditionally used in the healthcare and industrial sectors the recent events related to the coronavirus outbreak have highlighted the need for a wider adoption of these extremely effective products to protect corporate workforces as well as individual families.

Air Queen, produced by TopTec a leading South Korean manufacturer, uses a highly advanced nano-fibre material to provide extreme protection (in excess of 96% particle filtration) while simultaneously allowing for advanced breathability and comfort. Furthermore, its advanced design is not structurally compromised by ethanol cleaning products and can be reused, a highly beneficial feature to reduce consumables costs.  Compared to peer group manufacturers, such as 3M, the Air Queen is quantum leap in technology and effectiveness as well as filtration and air flow.

The Air Queen mask is a FDA 510k approved surgical respirator (K172500) with a use indication as follows, “to be worn by operating room personnel during surgical procedures to protect both the surgical patient and the operating room personnel from transfer of microorganism, body fluids and particulate materials.”  Therefore, the mask provides the maximum protection while being used even in day-to-day activities. The Air Queen is not NIOSH approved because of its ear loop design however, Independent research carried out by Nelson Labs confirms the company’s products provide particle protection and air flow far beyond the level afforded by N95 rated products. Wearers of nano-filter surgical masks, specifically Air Queen products, were found to have lower heart rates, lower micro-environment and skin surface temperatures than subjects who wore standard N95 masks while performing similar tasks.

In addition to the health and cost benefits, another key advantage of the Air Queen relates to its ability to distribute directly to the public.  Air Queen’s FDA 510K approval has an over the counter (OTC) indication. kf94central based in korea has begun selling its products to retail, and wholesale buyers including hospitals, state governments, labour unions, retail chains and e-commerce buyers. The Air Queen comes in both Adult and Child Sizes. For bulk order inquiries please contact us at kf94central@gmail.com


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