7 Signs Your N95 Mask Might Be Fake

By Elaine K. Howley | April 9th, 2021, At 5:13 P.M.

Counterfeit N95 respirators have infiltrated the market and could leave you at risk.

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020, Americans have become well acquainted with public health advisories that encourage us to wash our hands, practice social distancing and wear a mask in public. While a simple, reusable cotton mask offers some protection from the aerosolized particles that can cause a COVID-19 infection if inhaled, for the highest level of protection, many Americans are looking to acquire N95 respirators.

These specially designed and tested medical devices filter the air of nearly all particles and offer the most protection. They’ve long been considered the gold standard in medical circles, and during this pandemic, they’ve become highly sought-after goods.

Sky-high demand leads to counterfeits.

Demand for N95 respirators skyrocketed in spring of 2020.

Jennifer Ehrlich, a spokesperson for St. Paul, Minnesota-based 3M – the largest manufacturer of N95 respirators in the U.S. – says “in the U.S. alone, we are now producing more than 95 million N95 respirators a month, quadrupling production since pre-pandemic levels. We’re on track to manufacture 2.5 billion N95s globally, quadrupling production from pre-pandemic levels.” However, there’s still more demand than manufacturers like 3M can meet. This has led to a rising tide of counterfeit N95 respirators that have been hitting the market in recent months.

Desperation for these N95 respirators has created a robust marketplace for unscrupulous parties looking to make a quick buck with no regard for human health and safety. And it’s worked.

“It’s just crazy,” says David Baillargeon, co-founder of United States Mask, LLC, which manufactures NIOSH-approved N95 respirators in Arlington, Texas. (NIOSH is the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Healthy, and it’s part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

“Sight unseen, cities and governments were spending boatloads of money on buying respirators from so-and-so’s uncle in Asia who has a connection,” Baillargeon says. “The deals that were happening, and all the scams and how many people have gotten ripped off – I think everybody who’s been buying N95s has a story to tell about being scammed at some point.”

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