You would expect that when you go to a health care provider or hospital that they are using the most effective and tested masks. The intent is to safeguard both their staff and you as the patient….. not so fast !

An organization known as ECRI which is an independent, nonprofit organization improving the safety, quality, and cost- effectiveness of care across all healthcare settings, posted warnings that their study of ~200 masks revels that 60-70% don’t meet the NIOSH criteria for being a real N-95 mask.

These products were purchased by HOSPITALS by the tens of thousands   The ECRI warning is clear, if your purchasing from overseas sources that are not NIOSH approved your putting us all at risk.    

ECRI president and CEO, was quoted, “Because of the dire situation, U.S. hospitals bought hundreds of thousands of masks produced in China over the past six months and we’re finding that many aren’t safe and effective against the spread of COVID-19,”  “Using masks that don’t meet U.S. standards puts patients and frontline healthcare workers at risk of infection.

Now that your confused let’s clear the air. The good news is that there are lots of reputable mask manufacturers and more good news….the homemade versions were just again reported to be adequate for general use as well.

The update for homemade masks comes from the University of Illinois  Their key findings, a 2 layer mask is a must and can be >~70% effective and up to 94% effective dependent on the fabric used. This is very much an N-95 equivalent.


How to know if a mask is REAL ?

Mask Information

The key is to look at the label and check the prefix :

The difference between an N95 and a KN95 mask is where the mask is certified.

  • Australia/New Zealand- P2
  • Brazil- P2
  • China- KN95, KP95
  • Europe-FFP2
  • Japan-DS2, DL2
  • India-BIS P2
  • Korea- 1st class
  • US- NIOSH N95, R95, P95

Different types of Masks:

And you thought there was only the 95’s….there’s more to choose from with different amounts of filtration potentials. Why use a more filtering mask ?  Think about the fires and the air quality on the west coast or inside of say a restaurant where your exposures may be higher.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a good list of both models and options for masks;

Select a type of respirator to see all approved models:

N95 – Filters at least 95% of airborne particles. Not resistant to oil.
(N95 Manufacturers Index: 3M   A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z)

Surgical N95 – A NIOSH-approved N95 respirator that has also been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a surgical mask.

N99 – Filters at least 99% of airborne particles. Not resistant to oil.

N100 – Filters at least 99.97% of airborne particles. Not resistant to oil.

R95 – Filters at least 95% of airborne particles. Somewhat resistant to oil.

P95 – Filters at least 95% of airborne particles. Strongly resistant to oil.

P99 – Filters at least 99% of airborne particles. Strongly resistant to oil.

P100 – Filters at least 99.97% of airborne particles. Strongly resistant to oil.

The article on homemade masks from the University of Illinois give use some good reason to make our own:

Performance of fabrics for home-made masks against the spread of COVID-19 through droplets: A quantitative mechanistic study

The ECRI warning about the Chinese masks from their findings:

Use of Imported N95-Style Masks, without NIOSH Certification or Independent Lab Validation, May Put Healthcare Workers and Patients at Risk during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Take Away:


Check before you purchase and use a mask that’s:

  • Properly Certified
  • Does it fit snuggly
  • Is it comfortable
  • Can it be cleaned or is it a single use item
  • Do you have a backup mask when you’re out or if a strap breaks

 And don’t forget your Indoor Air Quality which is more important than ever !