The medical jargon surrounding protective facemasks can make it hard to identify counterfeit products. For instance, different nations use different codes for the same mask product: an N95 in the United States is the rough equivalent of China’s KN95. There is also the issue of “approval” versus “registration”: possession of an FDA registration number DOES NOT mean FDA approval. The registration number only means that the producer of the mask paid a fee to be registered with the FDA.
A solid starting point to watch out for fraudulent masks is the CDC’s list of counterfeit or misrepresented respirator masks. Unfortunately, many items misrepresent themselves as federally approved by flaunting fake certifications. The European Safety Federation has also released a list of groups selling PPE with fake or suspicious certifications.
Here are some simple markers to look for. If your mask has the following, it is likely fake or low quality:
- FDA logo on the mask itself or on packaging
- Loose packaging without any labeling
- Ear loops instead of full-head loops
To check if your respirator has the correct markings and parts, see the CDC’s database of NIOSH-approved respirator masks.