As omicron surges, how to avoid buying fake N95 masks online

WASHINGTON, DC — With omicron cases surging, some are shifting from using cloth masks to N95 and KN5 masks for better protection.

These masks are of higher quality but there are already counterfeit masks flooding the market and even the CDC warns about 60% of KN95 masks in the US are fake.

That’s why officials say you have to pay close attention to various labels for these masks.

Anne Miller is the executive director of Project N95, a national nonprofit created during the pandemic that provides affordable, authentic COVID-19 supplies.

“It can’t be that this protection is only available to those who know and who have means. I mean, it has to be that everybody has access,” said Miller.

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She said N95 and KN5 masks are easier to access now but there are some slight differences in quality.

Miller says N95 masks must pass federal safety standards but KN95 masks don’t. Those masks only meet the Chinese standard for filtration.

“There’s nobody looking out at the KN95 producers in China and saying, yes, this guy is or this company is really producing to a standard,” she said.

The CDC has posted a list of counterfeit masks but it’s still possible to fall for a fake mask online.

An Amazon spokesperson told the Washington News Bureau they are vetting sellers before listing masks on the site. In a statement, the company said, “We verify that they are sourced from a trusted manufacturer by inspecting supplier invoices to trace inventory, reviewing packaging and product descriptions, and comparing against the CDC’s counterfeit mask list.”

But Miller has concerns that the cost of some of these masks may put some people’s health at risk

“It’s going to drive people without means to a low-cost product that may, in fact, be counterfeit, or substandard,” she said.

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The CDC said federally approved N95 masks will have certain government logos, approval numbers, and filter levels on them.

This is the full statement from Amazon about masks online:

“We remain committed to serving our customers through the pandemic, in part by providing the personal protective equipment they need. For face masks marketed as N95 and KN95, we have implemented a rigorous seller vetting and product review process to ensure compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and Amazon policies. Before listing N95 and KN95 masks in our store, we verify that they are sourced from a trusted manufacturer by inspecting supplier invoices to trace inventory, reviewing packaging and product descriptions, and comparing against the CDC’s counterfeit mask list.” – Amazon spokesperson