How to Spot a Counterfeit N95 Mask

As the COVID-19 vaccine continues to roll out, the strong demand for masks is still going strong as the CDC continues to recommend that people wear masks anywhere they will be around other people. Even though the supply of heavy-duty medical masks has improved, it is still hard to purchase them online. The strong demand has brought a surge of counterfeit masks into the market. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported to CNN, that they have over 14.6 million counterfeit masks seized from entering the United States from the start of the pandemic to the end of 2020.

For the counterfeit masks that did make it inside the US, the health industry has found itself targeted as Washington State hospitals pulled N95 masks off their shelves to have them analyzed after an investigation found the counterfeits. CBS reports as many as 2 million counterfeit masks were found in about 40 hospitals in Washington State. Phony masks were also found in a Cleveland Clinic and the Minnesota Department of Health stopped 500,000 counterfeit N95 masks from being distributed to their healthcare facilities.

Check the Markings on the Mask

The CDC offers its guidance for spotting a fake N95 mask. Here are some tips in spotting a counterfeit N95 particulate respirator mask.

NIOSH approval

The most important thing is to make sure it has the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health approval. Make sure you see the NIOSH logo on the mask and that it is spelled correctly.

Approval Number

The NIOSH has an approval code that starts with “TC”.

Filter Class & Efficiency Level

In most cases it will be marked with “N95”, but there are other classes such as “P” and “R”, and levels 99 and 100.

Brand Name & Model Number

Look for the brand manufacturer name, registered trademark or clearly understood abbreviation, and model number. The CDC has a list of all approved models.

Check the Fitting

The N95 mask has two bands that go around the neck and the back of the head and should fit securely on your face after sealing the metal nose stripe. If the mask has ear-loops instead of the neck & back of the head bands, then it is not a real N95.

Check the Source

If you are buying online, be sure to check the quality of the website. Look for typos, bad grammar, and other errors or weird things on a site. Even on Amazon, you also need to consider the quality of the information and check the reviews to determine the credibility of the seller. 

Spirit Industrial has you covered. Our N95 masks are supplied by ORS Nasco, North America’s largest pure wholesaler of industrial supplies. Nasco was founded in 1959 and merged into ORS Nasco in 2003. ORS Nasco has more than 50 years of wholesale experience and is a trusted name in the industrial supply industry.

N95 & KN95 Confusions

Did you know the N95 Masks are considered the gold standard for pandemic protection because of the tight fit and having a 95% particulate filtering efficiency? The KN95 masks can often be confused for N95 masks. The biggest distinction between the two is how the masks are certified. The N95 is the U.S. standard and KN95 is the China standard, so even though the KN95 has many of the same protective properties, only the N95 are approved for healthcare to be used in the United States. Both masks are rated to capture 95% of tiny particles. The N95 has a tighter fit and stricter breathability requirement to pass.

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