Which is better -- a pleated face mask or an KN95 respirator?
KN95s that have been vetted are listed in Appendix A of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA’s) Emergency Use Authorization for Authorized Imported, Non-National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Approved Respirators Manufactured in China. These vetted KN95s provide more protection than a pleated surgical mask. They are designed to fit tightly against the wearer’s face and should therefore let in less air and provide better protection than a standard surgical mask.
Not all KN95 are approved by the FDA and they may not provide the same level of protection from particulates.
Pleated masks are commonly sold in many grocery stores and pharmacies. Many of these masks are not made to a regulatory or industry standard and there is no verifiable information as to how well they filter particulates. These are typically called “face masks” or “non-medical masks.” Before you buy at retail examine the packaging and notice if there is regulatory or industry standard marked on the box.
Surgical masks look essentially the same as “face masks” or non-medical masks but are different because they are manufactured to a regulatory standard and have been shown to effectively filter small particles.
Surgical masks also provide the wearer protection against large droplets, splashes, or sprays of bodily or other hazardous fluids and also protect others from the wearer’s exhalations.