N95 masks are crucial Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for front-line healthcare workers and industries like construction, where sanding and sawing materials creates a lot of air-bourne particles.
But just because a mask has N95 stamped on it doesn’t necessarily make it the real deal. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that counterfeit N95 masks and other PPEs are also being sold but they do not provide the level of protection at-risk workers need.
To make sure the masks you buy are the right ones, check with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which is part of the CDC. The NIOSH website has photos and explanations of some of the counterfeit masks. You also can verify the approval number on the NIOSH Certified Equipment List (CEL) or the NIOSH Trusted-Source page.
In addition, look for these signs of counterfeit:
- No markings at all on the filtering facepiece respirator
- No approval (TC) number on filtering facepiece respirator or headband
- No NIOSH markings
- NIOSH spelled incorrectly
- Presence of decorative fabric or other decorative add-ons (e.g., sequins)
- Claims for the of approval for children (NIOSH does not approve any type of respiratory protection for children)
- Filtering facepiece respirator has ear loops instead of headbands