How to spot a fake N95, KN95 or KF94 mask 1

How to ensure that the N95, KN95 or KF94 mask you buy is authentic

Aneth Ng-Lim

Posted at Jan 17 2022 12:57 PM | Updated as of Apr 11 2022 09:55 AM

One of the urgent things you need to do as we face another COVID-19 surge is to check the fit of your face mask, and possibly even consider an upgrade to a respirator.

The World Health Organization has urged the public many times to make wearing a mask a normal part of being around other people. There are many types of masks being worn and recommended right now, but there are 2 main categories that we have become familiar with: the medical or surgical masks and the respirators (which include the N95, KN95 and KF94).

Medical masks are easier to find and also more affordable. Choices include 2 ply, 3 ply, or 4 ply, and the users of 4 ply usually pick this so they do not need to double up their masks. However, studies have shown that the medical masks leave gaps which can still make the wearer vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. Maybe you did not pinch it tightly enough around the bridge of your nose, or it’s the way you wore the loops around your ears.

If you’ve been wearing medical masks and then tried one of the respirators, you will immediately feel the difference. The fit is tighter ensuring an adequate seal under the mask. No wonder respirator masks are recommended for health workers that come into contact with COVID-19 patients.

But respirator masks are going to be harder on your wallet and budget, which is why some reuse them and extend their life up to 10 uses, unlike the disposable medical masks. If you will go for the upgrade, just in time for the highly contagious Omicron variant, make sure you are not buying a fake, as I discovered to my dismay. Here are 7 tips to avoid buying and spot a fake respirator mask.

#1 Buy from trusted sellers.

Established retailers are likely to work with reputable vendors so that’s one less thing for you to worry about. They can also offer a wider product and price range and that will clue you in to the better quality respirators. The respirator masks also have a more or less set price, so if you find one that’s pretty cheap, you may be buying fakes.

#2 Know the N95, KN95, and KF94 standards.
    
All 3 have similar filtration efficiency of 94 percent to 95 percent (yes, that’s what the number means) but the letters tell you which country certified them. The N95s passed the U.S. standard, while the KN95 meet the Chinese standard, and the KF94 is a Korean standard. You may want to check out the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that offer a useful visual display of fake respirators here: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/usernotices/counterfeitResp.html

#3 Packaging is not tamper proof.

This is one easy giveaway. If the respirators come to you in resealable plastic, then it is most likely fake. Manufacturers follow a strict production protocol to ensure the respirators pass the standards set, and that means they are made in a sterile environment. They won’t go to all that trouble and then put it in a twist-tied plastic.

#4 There should be an expiration date.

Sellers have it easier when their products do not carry expiration dates. This means no products go to waste, and they can stay in the shelf to sell for as long as they like. But it’s not the same for respirators. The particle-repelling electrostatic charge on respirators degrade over time and that’s why their packaging always indicates an expiration date. Also, the elastomeric materials in the straps and the components that hold them in place weakens so if you don’t spot an expiry date, don’t buy it.

#5 Packaging should state manufacturer information.

It’s important to check the company that made the respirator, so you can verify them online. The packaging should state their company name, even their location and where the respirator was made. I checked a couple of respirator masks and the box includes the physical address and website of the company, plus how the customer can reach them for questions.

#6 Check the branding on the respirator.

I used to think it was funny that respirators have a brand on the mask itself, because the medical masks do not. It turns out this is a standard – you should be able to see the name of the company or logo right on the mask. This is true whether it’s an N95, KN95, or a KF94. 

#7 Did you get elastic bands or ear loops?

If you bought an N95 mask that came with ear loops, that may not be legitimate as N95s are known for elastic bands that go around your head for a tighter fit. The KN95 and KF94 however have ear loops so if you got these with elastic bands, that’s another red flag.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.

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Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.