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How to Spot a Counterfeit Respirator

Posted on 5/4/2020 by Lauren Scott

Many facilities are struggling to find respirators approved for use against COVID-19. Due to the national respirator shortage, some companies are seeking less conventional third-party marketplaces with the hope of keeping their essential staff and employees safe. But don’t be fooled! Many counterfeit masks appear strikingly similar to their approved counterpart. Here’s how to tell the difference.

How to Identify a NIOSH-approved Respirator

Only filter facepiece respirators (FFRs) approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have been tested and proven to operate effectively during correct usage. NIOSH-approved respirators will always have one the following designations: N95, N99, N100, R95, R99, R100, P95, P99, or P100.

NIOSH-approved FFRs have an approval label on or within the packaging. Therefore, the approval label may be on the respirator box itself or in the instruction manual. An abbreviated approval is also on the respirator itself.

You can verify the approval number on the NIOSH Certified Equipment List (CEL) or the NIOSH Trusted-Source web page to determine if the respirator has been approved by NIOSH.

Tips for Spotting a Fake NIOSH Respirator

The CDC has issued many quick tips to help buyers understand how to identify a counterfeit FFR before making a purchase. Here are a few:
  • No markings or approval number on the FFR or headband
  • No NIOSH markings
  • NIOSH spelled incorrectly
  • Presence of decorative fabric or other add-ons (e.g., sequins, glitter)
  • Claims of approval for children (no FFRs are approved for use on children)
  • FFR has ear loops instead of headbands

What to Look for When Shopping Online

When searching online for a new FFR supplier, there are a couple of ways to spot a sketchy website:
  • Is the primary contact e-mail address connected to the website or is it a free e-mail account? Using a free e-mail service may suggest the seller is not committed to the domain.
  • Look for bad grammar, typos, and other errors
  • Mixing up names/logos
  • Leaving the site partially unfinished with dummy text
  • Blank pages
  • A nonsense privacy policy page and/or broken links

Convenient, Online OSHA Safety Training

Industry professionals worldwide are turning to online training to keep operations on track and protect employees. Lion’s online OSHA courses can help ensure your workers know their responsibilities, even when your team is spread out across multiple locations.
Lion’s most popular OSHA courses:
Respiratory Protection (in English or Spanish)
Personal Protective Equipment
10-Hour OSHA General Industry
Introduction to Industrial Hygiene
Health and Safety Management


Tags: coronavirus, counterfeit respirator, COVID-19, fake respirator, health and safety, N95, NIOSH, osha, respirator, workplace safety

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