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How to tell the difference between fake N95 FDA-COVID-19 masks from genuine ones


Wearing a mask is essential to prevent the spread the coronavirus but with the number of fake masks that disguise themselves as genuine N95 masks becoming commonplace there are some ways to spot the differences.


The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told CNN that over 14.6 million counterfeit masks have been seized from the time the pandemic began up to the end of last year.


Unfortunately spotting the differences is no longer a game we played as children but has become a genuine exercise to safeguard health with reference to masks.


N95 masks are among the best available ones but they are sometimes confused with KN95 masks which are accepted by Chinese standards but not by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The NIOSH is a part of the CDC.


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If a mask is certified by the NIOSH it can be considered to be a genuine one. For this approval, the mask needs to filter at least 95% of airborne particles.


Some other things to look out for are include the language on the website as flaws may indicate that the masks sold are also substandard. The use of words like genuine or real are also indications of hyperbole as reputed manufacturers don’t need to use such words. Consistency in product line and brand speaks of good quality. A price too good to be true is also suspicious.


What could you do if you have already bought masks? Some of the precautions or checks you can still make are as follows:


  • Check the approval label on the mask or within the mask packaging in the box or user’s instructions
  • There should be an abbreviated approval marking
  • The approval number should begin with TC
  • There should be a NIOSH logo
  • The approval number can be checked on a NIOSH certified equipment list


Other indications that point towards a non complaint mask include the addition of decorations mainly sequins, ear loops instead of head bands and mentions of child approval as NIOSH does not approve of masks for children.


The CDC and NIOSH have photos of approved masks and tips to spot counterfeit ones. If you think you have a fake face mask you can report it to the CBP or the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center.

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