N95 Masks

Prevention Challenges

How to Distinguish Counterfeit PPE from The Real Thing

These counterfeits are putting people’s lives in danger.

As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on and personal protective equipment (PPE) remains scarce, counterfeiters have eagerly stepped in to fill the void. The fraudulent versions, however, can be distinguished from the authentic equipment upon closer inspection.

That’s according to an article in Anesthesiology News, “Protect Yourself from Counterfeit PPE.” The author offers tips on what to look for in distinguishing real equipment from knock-offs.

One example of counterfeit PPE is the KN95 masks from China, a fake version of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-approved N95 respirator. Tener Veenema, a professor of nursing at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Baltimore, called it a “huge concern” in a recent virtual news conference held by the American Nurses Association “because these counterfeits are putting people’s lives in danger.”

As the pandemic resurges, many healthcare providers are required by their facilities to reuse masks, for as many as five days, according to an online survey cited by Anesthesiology News. Given that scenario, it is even more important that quality protection is being used.

We’ve written here at Single-Use Endoscopy about studies into how surgical masks and proper hand hygiene protect healthcare workers from COVID-19 during aerosol-generating procedures such as bronchoscopies. PPE is also vital to keeping endoscope reprocessing staffers safe – and, used incorrectly, it can undo the important work of endoscope disinfection.

N95 mask information can be entered on the NIOSH website to determine if it has been approved. A photo of any mask identified as counterfeit is posted on the website.

To determine whether a mask is still safe for use, the user should check the manufacturing label to see if reuse is allowed, and if so, for how long.

For safety verification:

  • Check for a NIOSH approval number, a NIOSH logo and correct spelling.
  • What filter classification is listed on the mask?
  • Are there lot and model numbers that can be verified?
  • Is there an easily understood brand name and registered trademark?

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