Comparing the fit of N95, KN95
The COVID-19 pandemic has made well-fitting face masks a critical piece of protective equipment for healthcare workers and civilians. While the importance of wearing face masks has been acknowledged, there remains a lack of understanding about the role of good fit in rendering protective equipment useful. In addition, supply chain constraints have caused some organizations to abandon traditional quantitative or/and qualitative fit testing, and instead, have implemented subjective fit checking. Our study seeks to quantitatively evaluate the level of fit offered by various types of masks, and most importantly, assess the accuracy of implementing fit checks by comparing fit check results to quantitative fit testing results.To get more news about quality nonmedical mask factory, you can visit tnkme.com official website.
Seven participants first evaluated N95 and KN95 respirators by performing a fit check. Participants then underwent quantitative fit testing wearing five N95 respirators, a KN95 respirator, a surgical mask, and fabric masks.
N95 respirators offered higher degrees of protection than the other categories of masks tested; however, it should be noted that most N95 respirators failed to fit the participants adequately. Fit check responses had poor correlation with quantitative fit factor scores. KN95, surgical, and fabric masks achieved low fit factor scores, with little protective difference recorded between respiratory protection options. In addition, small facial differences were observed to have a significant impact on quantitative fit.
Fit is critical to the level of protection offered by respirators. For an N95 respirator to provide the promised protection, it must fit the participant. Performing a fit check via NHS self-assessment guidelines was an unreliable way of determining fit.
During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of face mask fit has become apparent, while testing to ensure fit has decreased [1, 2]. It is known that respiratory protective equipment is only effective when there is an adequate seal formed between a mask and the person’s face to ensure that inhaled air is actually filtered. Indeed, research has suggested that an ineffective seal is the primary cause of airborne contamination amongst wearers of face mask . It has been noted that leakage around the face mask may account for a third of airflow across surgical masks and a sixth of the flow across respirators . Fit is recognized as being particularly important when determining whether masks are capable of reducing the spread of fine particles. It is normal practice for respirators to be fit tested before use in clinical practice.
COVID-19 has strained supply chains of masks and fit testing supplies while simultaneously placing heavy workloads on hospital staff. This has led to many healthcare facilities having to abandon normal fit testing procedures . Qualitative and quantitative fit testing has been replaced by self-performed fit checks, in which the user feels for air leaks . The potential impact of abandoning or replacing fit testing procedures on respiratory protection with the current self-assessment remains understudied. Prior research has evaluated similar self-assessment procedures and found them ineffective , further raising concerns over the safety of the new self-assessment procedures.
For individuals outside of healthcare facilities, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States and Public Health England (PHE) in the United Kingdom have advised the general public to wear fabric face coverings in public [6, 7]. Notably, there is little literature exploring the fit of fabric face coverings and how much protection they may offer wearers where fit issues are present. Even in normal times, fit testing is reserved for the use of N95 respirators and research into the importance of fit for other mask types, such as surgical masks, is limited.
Our study explores the fit and associated protection offered by a range of face masks types. Notably, we test a pre-COVID-19 manufactured N95 respirator; a KN95 respirator, a standard surgical mask, and a selection of fabric face coverings. We aim to elucidate importance of fit for protecting the wearer, how well a simple fit check predicts fit, and the relative degree of protection offered by each mask type.