A must-have with Omicron, but there are plenty of counterfeits

N95 masks: A must-have with omicron, but there are plenty of fakes

You see the Omicron variant race around the world and think it might be time to upgrade your mask to a gold standard N95 or KN95 model. A quick search on Google should find you one, right?

Not so fast, experts say.

According to Anne Miller, CEO of the nonprofit group Project N95, the masks that offer the most protection are actually N95 and KN95 – both approved by the US government to block 95% of the new coronavirus.

But she warned that there are plenty of counterfeits out there.

The U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) tests masks to make sure they meet the standards for what is called “filtration rate,” she explained. When the pandemic began, lots of masks were submitted to NIOSH for approval as companies sought to monetize the growing demand.

Only a few succeeded.

“Some of these masks were like 20% filtration,” Miller noted. In fact, “over 60% of the masks submitted did not pass NIOSH tests – they did not perform,” she said.

“From my perspective as a consumer, I do not want to shell out my money and get something that I think protects me that is not, and then I have a false sense of security – and then I get sick,” Miller added.

This does not mean that all imported N95 and KN95 masks are junk. But they must all meet NIOSH standards, Miller said.

Check the numbers

To make sure any masks you buy are authentic, Miller advises consumers to look for the TC number on N95 masks. “It says TC – and then three digits more and then two digits and also a batch number,” she said. Genuine N95 masks also come with a head strap.

For KN95 stitches, Miller said the stitch should say, “GB 2626-2019, then a space and then KN95. If it has not been printed on the front of the stitch, it is not made to the standard.”

The mask must also have a brand name on it, Miller said. “When you see a mask that just says KN95 and no brand, you have no way of knowing who actually produced it, and that’s not good.”

Are there other warning signs that a mask may be fake?

Miller said that a safe clue is if the label claims that the mask is FDA-approved or that it is registered with the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration).

“If you see the FDA logo on the box, if you see anyone marketing their product as FDA approved, it’s almost a guarantee that it’s a substandard or counterfeit product,” Miller said in a statement. “If you’re registered, you paid $ 5,400 to be registered, and that’s it … the FDA website says the registration does not imply any kind of approval.”

Also pay attention to a mask without markings at all, no NIOSH marks or NIOSH is misspelled, decorative substances and any requirements for NIOSH approval for children (NIOSH does not approve respirators for children).

Cost is not a factor

Miller stressed that price is not an indicator of whether a mask is the real thing or not: high-quality masks do not have to be expensive.

“You can buy an American-made N95, NIOSH-rated respirator for 60 or 75 cents, so you don’t have to spend a lot of money,” she said.

It is important to change masks frequently as they wear and become less effective, Miller said. For most, it is good to have several stitches that can be turned. Each mask is good for about 40 hours of use, Miller said.

The trick with N95 and KN95 masks is to maintain a good seal. Many people may find an N95 uncomfortable, so they may feel better about a KN95, which has ear straps and may be easier to tolerate.

“They’re not designed for comfort,” Miller said. “They are designed for performance.”

Fit is the key

With regard to other masks, such as fabric masks, Miller says they can be used over a high quality mask as a fashion statement or to keep a mask clean, but they really do not provide enough protection in themselves.

The best way to make sure you get a good mask is to buy them from a reputable source, Miller said.

Expert in infectious diseases Dr. Marc Siegel, a clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, stressed that “masks are not the ultimate protection.”

They can help ward off infection, but they must be worn properly and changed frequently. “By properly worn, I mean a tight fit over the nose,” Siegel said.

He acknowledged that N95 masks can be uncomfortable to wear and difficult to use, but KN95 or N95 masks provide the best protection.

“When we cancel your mask game, it means you go for a KN95 or an N95,” Siegel said.

New study identifies most effective face mask practices to reduce the spread of infection

More information:
For more on face masks, see US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health Day 2021. All rights reserved.

Citation: N95 masks: A must-have with Omicron, but counterfeits abound (2021, December 30) retrieved December 30, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-12-n95-masks-must- have-omicron-fakes .html

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