The COVID-19 crisis has left hospitals in a difficult position. More personal protective equipment is desperately needed, and while some protection is better than nothing, healthcare providers who work closely with coronavirus patients need an N95 mask rather than a surgical mask. Civil-grade, low-quality, or counterfeit masks just don’t offer the same protection for patients or providers, and it’s important that providers know what kind of protective gear they’re getting. Luckily, there are four ways to easily tell if your masks are fake N95 respirators—and if you’re still not sure, the CDC is a good resource for finding more information.
FDA Logo on the Box
The FDA doesn’t allow vendors to put their logo on a respirator box. If the respirator supplier says that their masks are FDA approved, this should be treated as a red flag. Respirators only require FDA clearance, not approval: look for “FDA-cleared” instead of “approval.”
Related to FDA approval is FDA registration. An FDA registration certificate is not the same thing as clearance or approval, no matter what a supplier might say. Any company can pay a fee to register a product with the FDA prior to clearance or approval, but this doesn’t mean that the product is approved.
Proper N95 respirators will have elastic bands that wrap completely around the back of the head to keep them tightly sealed. Knockoff masks will often have elastic that wraps around the ears, but because people have different ear and face sizes, this means that these masks can’t fit consistently. While masks with ear loops might be adequate for civil use, even if the material provides a lot of filtration, the fit is not suitable for medical use.
The Wrong Performance Standard
If you’re buying masks or respirators from abroad, keep in mind that different countries use different labeling for similar functions—and mislabeling can be a dangerous mistake for healthcare workers. An N95 respirator is named because it has 95% filtration, which other masks can’t necessarily guarantee. China, Europe, Australia/New Zealand, Korea, Japan, and the United States all have different standards for their respirators, and you can’t count on something being the equivalent of N95, NIOSH, or FFP2 based on supplier claims alone.
Protective Gear and Advice from PK Safety
Proper safety equipment and education are crucial to staying safe in all workplaces, and in the midst of a pandemic, it is even more important. PK Safety’s decades of experience in and dedication to workplace safety hasn’t wavered in the face of coronavirus. Read up on our plan for keeping our workers safe while we help you protect yours, and if you have workplace or equipment safety questions, contact us online or give us a call at 800.829.9580.
A respirator mask works only as good as it fits. It won’t protect you from hazards if it doesn’t fit your face properly.