How Effective Is the Filtration of ‘KN95’ Filtering Facepiece Respirators During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Ann Work Expo Health. 2020 Oct 30:wxaa101. doi: 10.1093/annweh/wxaa101. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVES: The high demand of filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) worldwide during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a critical situation for decision-makers regarding their supply. After authorizing the use of FFRs certified by other regions of the world, decision-makers in many countries have published alerts, particularly concerning the ‘KN95’ type.

METHODS: This paper investigated the filtration performance of different FFRs using an experimental setup already employed during several studies on FFRs filtration performance. Its high-resolution measuring devices permit to determine filtration performance according to the normative criteria: the pressure drop and the filtration efficiency. Eight different FFRs have been used: four NIOSH-approved FFRs and four not NIOSH-approved with a ‘KN95’ shape available during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

RESULTS: The data show a high disparity between different FFRs purchased by healthcare establishments, and between those that are NIOSH-approved and those that are not NIOSH-approved. The results confirm that the NIOSH certification offers good protection according to the normative criteria. The ‘KN95’ types present pressure drops which correspond to the normative value, however their efficiencies are lower than the efficiencies of FFRs certified by NIOSH and lower than 95% at the most penetrate particle size.

CONCLUSIONS: FFRs marking is not sufficient to conclude on the FFRs’ efficiency. Visual inspection can not determine which samples are counterfeit or have manufacturing defects.

PMID:33125464 | DOI:10.1093/annweh/wxaa101