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Personal protective equipment is a hot commodity and counterfeiters are aware and trying to take advantage of the market.

In the last week, we’ve heard several stories from clients who’ve fallen victim to purchasing what they thought where NIOSH-approved N95s or respirators that are similar to N95s, such as the KN95s. Unfortunately, upon arrival the respirator packaging indicates a different manufacturer than the website description or incorrect marks indicating that they are not an approved respirator.

This KN95 model has ear loops instead of head straps which indicates  that it’s not approved for respiratory protection in the U.S.

How to spot a fake N95 respirator?

Without seeing the respirator in person it’s difficult to decipher the real from the fake. However, the CDC recently outlined:

“Signs that a respirator may be counterfeit:

  1. No markings at all on the filtering facepiece respirator
  2. Presence of decorative fabric or other decorative add-ons (e.g., sequins)
  3. Claims for the of approval for children (NIOSH does not approve any type of respiratory protection for children)
  4. Filtering facepiece, N95 or KN95 respirator has ear loops instead of two straps that go around the head and neck.
  5. Indication of FDA approved; FDA does not approve respirators. FDA does ‘register’ products but that does not indicate approval.
  6. FDA logo on the box.”

Note about KN95s and alternatives to N95s: Other countries approve respirators for occupational use according to country-specific standards. Because of extreme demand, many of these respirators, like KN95s are readily available for purchase now. Please be sure to consult NIOSH’s list of similar respirators prior to purchasing masks from other countries online. And please note that Safex can only fit test a respirator that is NIOSH approved or on the above list.

For more information and photos of counterfeit respirators, please reference CDC’s guidance. The CDC will also be holding a webinar on this topic on May 7.

Example of the Correct Exterior Markings on a NIOSH-Approved Filtering Facepiece Respirator

Photo source: CDC