According to The New York Times, “The [KN95] masks are almost identical in performance to the N95 masks that hospitals and other institutions are struggling to find.” There are “slight differences in their specifications, like a variation in the maximum pressure the masks must be able to withstand as a person inhales and exhales.” The C.D.C. lists KN95 masks as a suitable alternative when N95s are not available.

This sentiment is reinforced by Thomas Talhelm from Smart Air - "In short, N95 masks are the US standards for respirator masks; KN95 masks are the Chinese standards for masks. These are the requirements that the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health requires manufacturers to meet in order to label their masks as N95s. Despite the long list of differences, the two masks are equivalent or nearly equivalent on the features that most people care about."

You can read more about this in 3M’s January 2020 Technical Bulletin here.

Comparison of FFP2, KN95, and N95 and Other Filtering Facepiece Respirator Classes (taken from 3M's January 2020 Technical Bulletin).

Filtering facepiece respirators (FFR), which are sometimes called disposable respirators, are subject to various regulatory standards around the world. These standards specify certain required physical properties and performance characteristics in order for respirators to claim compliance with the particular  standard. During pandemic or emergency situations, health authorities often reference these standards when making respirator recommendations, stating, for example, that certain populations should use an “N95, FFP2, or equivalent” respirator.

This document is only intended to help clarify some key similarities between such references, specifically to the following FFR
performance standards:

  • KN95 (China GB2626-2006)
  • N95 (United States NIOSH-42CFR84)
  • FFP2 (Europe EN 149-2001)
  • P2 (Australia/New Zealand AS/NZA 1716:2012)
  • DS (Japan JMHLW-Notification 214, 2018)
  • Korea 1st class (Korea KMOEL - 2017-64)

As shown in the following summary table, respirators certified as meeting these standards can be expected to function very similarly to one another, based on the performance requirements stated in the standards and confirmed during conformity testing. FFR classification performance comparison.

Certification/ Class (Standard)

N95 (NIOSH-42C FR84)

FFP2 (EN 149-2001)

KN95 (GB2626-20 06)

P2 (AS/NZ 1716:2012)

Korea 1st Class (KMOEL - 2017-64)

DS (Japan JMHLWNotification 214, 2018)

Filter performance – (must be ≥ X% efficient) ≥ 95% ≥ 94% ≥ 95% ≥ 94% ≥ 94% ≥ 95%
Test agent NaCl NaCl and paraffin oil NaCl NaCl NaCl and paraffin oil NaCl
Flow rate 85 L/min 95 L/min 85 L/min 95 L/min 95 L/min 85 L/min
Total inward leakage (TIL)* – tested on human subjects each performing exercises N/A ≤ 8% leakage (arithmetic mean) ≤ 8% leakage (arithmetic mean) ≤ 8% leakage (individual and arithmetic mean) ≤ 8% leakage (arithmetic mean)
Inward Leakage measured and included in User Instructions
Inhalation resistance – max pressure drop ≤ 343 Pa ≤ 70 Pa (at 30 L/min) ≤ 240 Pa (at 95 L/min) ≤ 500 Pa (clogging) ≤ 350 Pa ≤ 70 Pa (at 30 L/min) ≤ 240 Pa (at 95 L/min) ≤ 70 Pa (at 30 L/min) ≤ 240 Pa (at 95 L/min)
≤ 70 Pa (w/valve) ≤ 50 Pa (no valve)
Flow rate 85 L/min Varied – see above 85 L/min Varied – see above Varied – see above 40 L/min
Exhalation resistance - max pressure drop ≤ 245 Pa ≤ 300 Pa ≤ 250 Pa ≤ 120 Pa ≤ 300 Pa
≤ 70 Pa (w/valve) ≤ 50 Pa (no valve
Flow rate 85 L/min 160 L/min 85 L/min 85 L/min 160 L/min 40 L/min
Exhalation valve leakage requirement Leak rate ≤ 30 mL/min N/A Depressurizatio n to 0 Pa ≥ 20 sec Leak rate ≤ 30 mL/min visual inspection after 300 L /min for 30 sec
Depressurizatio n to 0 Pa ≥ 15 sec
Force applied -245 Pa N/A -1180 Pa -250 Pa N/A -1,470 Pa
CO2 clearance requirement N/A ≤ 1% ≤ 1% ≤ 1% ≤ 1% ≤ 1%

*Japan JMHLW-Notification 214 requires an Inward Leakage test rather than a TIL test.

Definitions (taken from 3M's January 2020 Technical Bulletin).

Filter performance – the filter is evaluated to measure the reduction in concentrations of specific aerosols in air that passes through the filter. 

Test agent –  the aerosol that is generated during the filter performance test.

Total inward leakage (TIL) – the amount of a specific aerosol that enters the tested respirator facepiece via both filter penetration and faceseal leakage, while a wearer performs a series of exercises in a test chamber.

Inward leakage (IL) – the amount of a specific aerosol that enters the tested respirator facepiece, while a wearer performs a normal breathing for 3 minutes in a test chamber. The test aerosol size (count median diameter) is about 0.5 micro meter.

Pressure drop – the resistance air is subjected to as it moves through a medium, such as a respirator filter.