How to Spot a Fake KN95 Mask

Getty / Sergio Mendoza Hochmann / ©2021 Sergio Alejandro Mendoza Hochmann

Cloth masks aren’t as effective against the rapidly spreading omicron variant of COVID-19, so there’s a push from health officials to wear N95 or KN95 masks. They’re higher quality and offer a tighter, more secure fit than reusable cloth or surgical masks. N95 and KN95 masks (made in the U.S. and China respectively), are equally effective at filtering out 95 percent of airborne particles. Since health care professionals should have priority using N95s, they may be hard to find, making KN95 masks the next best option. When you order KN95 masks for you and your kids, you should know that fake KN95 masks exist. The CDC said that 60 percent of masks labeled KN95 are counterfeit.

How to Avoid Buying a Fake KN95 Mask

Use these guidelines from the CDC:

  • Validate that the mask was tested by an ISO/IEC 17025-accredited test laboratory in the country that holds the standard.
  • Look for masks stamped with GB2626-2019. KN95 masks made after July 1, 2021 are required to have this stamp, which provides assurance that the manufacturer constructed the mask according to current Chinese guidelines.
  • Don’t buy a mask that says “NIOSH approved.” NIOSH is the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and it doesn’t approve KN95 masks. If you see this or a similar wording, that’s a red flag.
  • It also shouldn’t say “FDA-approved,” “FDA-registered,” or “FDA-listed.” explained ECRI’s president and CEO, Marcus Schabacker, MD, PhD, as the FDA doesn’t provide so-called certificates of approval. This just means the manufacturer filed the paperwork to make the FDA aware that it exists, Schabacker said. It doesn’t mean the mask has been authorised or tested.
  • Look out for packaging that uses words like “genuine,” “legitimate,” “authentic,” or “reputable.” If it’s a trusted, established company, it shouldn’t have the need to convince you.
  • The mask itself should display the name of the company or logo. Anne Miller, executive director of Project N95, a nonprofit that sells vetted PPE, COVID-19 tests, masks, and other critical equipment, explained that reputable companies want to build brand awareness, so if the mask is blank, that’s another red flag. Likewise, the package should show the company’s location, so you know where the masks were manufactured. A website or physical address should be visible in case you need to get in touch with the manufacturer with questions or concerns.
  • There should be an expiration date, explained Christina Baxter, CEO of Emergency Response TIPS, LLC, an emergency response education and consulting company, since the materials can deteriorate over time.
  • Legitimate masks will be sealed in a way that lets you know they could not have been tampered with. Masks that come in a baggie with a twist tie are a no-go.
  • Look for superior quality in the mask itself. They should not have crooked nose wires, uneven elastics, or those that fall off easily.

Related: What to Know About “Flurona” – Having Flu and COVID at the Same Time

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