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Don’t be fooled by fake N95 and KN95 masks – here’s how to buy real ones

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As we enter 2023, it is important to remain vigilant in the fight against COVID-19. While 69% of Americans are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, this may not be enough. Although receiving a vaccine reduces the chance of contracting COVID-19 and greatly reduces the risk of serious hospitalization, breakthrough infections can still occur. Infection is particularly likely from the latter variant, XBB.1.5, which is said to be five times more contagious than omicron, experts say.

►Related: Experts say people who haven’t had COVID are more likely to get XBB.1.5, and many of them will get reinfected.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend masks for people over the age of two in areas with high rates of COVID-19. N95 and KN95 masks remain the gold standard when it comes to face masks as they can filter up to 95% of airborne particles. While these protective masks can be purchased from major retailers and online distributors, there are many counterfeit and faulty masks out there. KN95 masks especially suffer from poor quality. The CDC estimates that about 60% of KN95 respirators rated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) do not meet their standards.

When it comes to the health of you and your loved ones, only the real deal will do. Fortunately, there are some signs that distinguish fake masks from real ones. Here are some tips from the CDC and other experts to help you avoid N95 and KN95 mask scams.

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How to tell if an N95 mask is fake

When it comes to personal protective equipment, you want to make sure you're using the real deal.

Look for the NIOSH Seal of Approval

The most important thing to look for in N95 masks is that the respirator has been tested and certified by NIOSH. The filtering respirator must have an approval number and “NIOSH” must be spelled correctly.

Both the mask and its packaging must be NIOSH Approved, says Dr. Stella Hines, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “These masks must meet a specific set of criteria in order to guarantee the level of protection and performance that is expected,” explains Dr. Hines. “A formal fit test procedure ensures an adequate fit to the face.”

You can also include the manufacturer and approval number on the N95 mask to ensure it is listed on the NIOSH certified equipment list. So you can be sure that it meets NIOSH standards.

The N95 never had ear loops

Legitimate N95 masks don’t have ear loops — instead, they have webbing or a headband — and no other decorative accents. N95 respirators use headbands that are attached around the head to ensure a proper fit to the face.

Pay attention to the price

Jim Churchman, Vice President of Purchasing and Supply Chain at Duke University Health System, recommends keeping an eye on any N95 masks that are significantly more expensive than the average respirator or those that are available in suspiciously large quantities. He says both of these factors are strong indicators of potential fraud.

NIOSH approved children’s N95 masks do not exist

Looking for kids N95 masks? Unfortunately, N95s are rarely used in children’s sizes due to NIOSH only regulating adult products, according to staff writer Janelle Randazza.

Although an N95 mask may not be suitable for your children, KN95 or KF94 protective masks designed for small faces or children are an alternative solution. Many of these are made under the same brands as N95 masks, such as Powecom and WellBefore, and are sold by reputable distributors such as Bona Fide Masks and Project N95.

How to tell if a KN95 mask is fake

It is important to know what to look for in a legitimate KN95 mask.

KN95 cannot be approved by NIOSH

Although NIOSH tests and certifies N95 masks, they do not endorse KN95 masks, KF94 masks, or any other respirators that may receive international certification. If a seller or manufacturer claims that KN95 masks are NIOSH approved, you are most likely dealing with a counterfeit product.

Look for the KN95 standard printed on the mask.

In 2020, the FDA granted an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for some KN95 masks due to a shortage of N95 masks. This includes respirators and filters certified to Chinese standards: GB 2626-2006 or the latest GB 2626-2019. Look for any of these codes printed on the KN95 mask as this can help determine if the mask is fake or not.

If this seems doubtful, it is probably

While sorting N95 masks is easier, buying KN95 masks can be more confusing. If you’re truly unsure about any mask from an unknown retailer, ask yourself the questions you’d ask yourself when faced with other potentially counterfeit products: Does the manufacturer make false certification claims? Does the packaging look neat and undamaged or does it look like it has been counterfeited? Are there any positive or negative reviews worth paying attention to? If something seems questionable, it probably is.

Where to buy real N95 and KN95 masks

There are certain features that distinguish a real mask from a fake one.

Buying N95 or KN95 masks can seem intimidating, especially when thousands of unknown brands and manufacturers of N95 and KN95 masks are listed at retailers like Amazon.

“The lack of US government oversight of filtration quality claims other than NIOSH and ASTM approved coatings has led to widespread quality confusion,” Project N95 Executive Director Ann Miller said in a brand press release.

One of the main ways to make sure you are buying legitimate respirator masks is to buy from sellers you know and trust. Retailers such as Lowe’s and Home Depot sell NIOSH-approved N95 masks for a variety of uses, including industrial or home use. These N95 masks are still certified to provide effective filtration so you can buy and use them as needed. You can also find N95 respirators at pharmacies such as CVS.

If you are looking for more options for N95 masks or want to try KN95 or KF94 masks, you can go to an online distributor that tests personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks. The places we recommend shopping at include Project N95, Bona Fide Masks and WellBefore as they all work to provide affordable, affordable and legal PPE to those who need it. Dr. Sabrina Assumu, an infectious disease physician at Boston Medical Center, says she uses Project N95 herself.

Project N95

$20 from Project N95 $20 from Project N95 $13 from Project N95

conscientious masks

$19 from Bona Fide $12 from Bona Fide $13 from Bona Fide

Well, first

$1.39 from WellBefore $1.04 from WellBefore $1.04 from WellBefore


$19.74 at Amazon $7.47 at Amazon $3 at Amazon $15.29 at Amazon

Home Depot

$20 at Home Depot $23 at Home Depot

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.

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