The difference is in the country standards that measure the product’s performance. The N95 mask is a filtering facepiece respirator (FFR) that meets the United States standard of NIOSH-42CFR84. The KN95 — the Chinese version of the same mask— meets China’s safety standard, GB2626-2006.
But both masks function and perform similarly. They filter a minimum of 95% of particles or droplets that are 0.3 microns wide or larger, including viruses, smoke and bacteria. Due to recent demand and shortages of N95 masks for medical workers, the US government has approved KN95s for use.
Both masks offer nearly the same level of protection, according to a study by respirator company 3M.
Differences come down to function and intended use. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) tests and certifies standard respirator masks used in the workplace to prevent dust and other small airborne particles from inhalation. In contrast, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clears as medical devices both standard surgical masks and surgical N95 respirator masks intended for use by healthcare workers.
NIOSH approves respirators in accordance with 42 Code of Federal Regulations Part 84 (42 CFR 84), not to any other standards. Only respirators that meet or exceed all of the requirements established in the 42 CFR 84 standards are acknowledged by NIOSH, and only those that have been NIOSH approved may be marketed as a NIOSH-approved respirator. If a respirator is marked only N95, that does not constitute a NIOSH approval. Currently, N95 is not trademarked. It has been used to indicate a filtering facepiece respirator (FFR) is 95% efficient; however, it should not be used in a context that misleads a user to think an FFR is NIOSH-approved that is not.”
Manufactured to EEA standards, and are used by hospitals, medical facilities, and health professionals.