In the rush to combat Covid-19, large volumes of KN95 masks entered the UK, only for the Health and Safety Executive to warn in mid June that this type of mask was non-PPE*, rendering much of that supply surge useless.
Regulated by the Chinese government, KN95 masks are very similar to N95 masks. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration had granted emergency use authorization on April 3, 2020, for several KN95 mask manufacturers, but recently revoked that approval after testing revealed the masks failed to filter out up to 95% of particles, the standard for N95 masks.
The actions of the HSE and FDA highlight the risks involved in sourcing masks. To avoid buying dud masks, make sure your supply is CE and FDA approved and holds EN149 standard.
To check conformity, all face masks should have CE, FDA and EN standards on the packaging and the supplier should always provide certification to prove the standards on your request as a buyer.
Here in the UK, the range of approved PPE masks, typically comprising FFP2 and FFP3-type masks, has been sold out for weeks in most outlets, with scant supplies available at significantly increased prices and long lead times for back orders.
If you have found a reasonably priced FFP2 or FFP3 solution, you have done well. They are out there – but genuine stock is scarce.
Huge demand coupled with restricted supply means the UK and other countries are now having to start new supply chains, forge new relationships, and mitigate the not insignificant risk of fraud.
“An estimated 89 million medical masks are required for the Covid-19 response each month,” according to the WHO this level of supply and demand is likely to continue in the short term, so vigilance on the part of buyers is paramount.