As more automotive firms and small manufacturers rush to help ease the burden on the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supply chain, K&N Filters — well known throughout the automotive world for their aftermarket gauze/oil-based air filters — have been rejected by the American Medical Association as a potential supplier of facemasks during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The company’s CEO, Tom McGann, said he was inspired by efforts by Ford, Tesla, and GM, and wanted to utilize his company’s extensive filter manufacturing skills to help bolster the strained supply chain for PPE.
“Doctors are rushing around all over the world right now. We thought ‘What if we could help them rush around at 5-7% faster speeds with no adverse effects on their lungs?’” McGann shared via email. “These are the performance metrics that traditional N95 mask companies don’t even consider.”
However, after testing several prototypes through multiple independent labs (including Bob is the Medical Equipment Guy, or BITMEG), the results were clear: While flow rates were substantially increased, the K&N masks were unable to achieve N95-level ratings. Median results hovered between N4 and N5, both in human and machine-based tests. Some samples even allowed particles such as silica dust, small pebbles, and tiny woodland creatures to pass through them.
Both the basic “panel filter” masks were tested, as well as the much more expensive “Cold Breath Intake” Systems. However, results varied little among the different models. Some participants even reported lung irritation, which McGann attributed to “over-oiling” of the filters.
“This decision is a tough blow for K&N, but we stand behind our products. Our flow rates can objectively increase VO2max for medical professionals,” McGann defended, referring to the efficiency of the human body to absorb oxygen during times of stress or exertion.
The AMA officially states that filtration quality is far more important than flow rate, but McGann refuses to accept this premise, adding “We give you free sticker. Does 3M do that? Ask anyone who has tried these masks – their ‘butt dynos’ aren’t lying about the improved flow and response times!” McGann insists.
(Editor’s note: The AMA’s Director of Proctology and Gastrointestinal Research, Dr. Sandeep Mathur, has conducted research across 19 test patients and concluded that the proverbial ‘butt dyno’ does not anatomically exist.)