Under the influence of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), face mask has become a necessity in daily life. People are strongly advised to wear face masks when commuting, shopping, etc. to prevent themselves and others from possible droplet transmission and contact with the virus. Unfortunately, when it comes to buying the masks, some may encounter with fake masks that are below standard, made for profit instead of maintaining public health. We can’t possibly be sure where they are produced or how many of them are still in the market, but we can learn how to tell whether a mask is qualified or inferior.
1. fake masks cannot provide efficient protection and can be a possible source of pollution.
The most recommended masks are N95 medical masks, KN95/N95 particulate respirators as filtering masks, disposable surgical masks and disposable medical care masks (most common ones). Among them, the faking problem is most serious in the latter three kinds.
First, let’s talk about KN95 and N95, which correspond to the filtering standards of masks in China and the US respectively, requiring 95% initial efficiency on 0.3-micron particles. It can be seen from the picture that the material they use is of high density, with extremely small gaps and holes so that they can serve as a protection against the virus. The faked ones, however, use cheap filter material with poor protection effects. Some may even add a layer of heat-sealing cotton to add to the thickness. These fake KN95/N95 masks are ineffective at filtering, and they also increase respiratory resistance.
Then, there are surgical and medical masks. They are both made of three layers, the outermost layer is made of non-woven fabric with waterproof and electrostatic treatment, the middle layer is the filter, and the inner layer is made of skin-friendly cotton yarn material. Faked ones of these masks usually only have two layers and are much thinner than the qualified ones. They also use cheap filters and rough fabrics.
What’s more, these fake masks are usually produced without sterilization treatments, which means they are already polluted, or their sanitary conditions are not up to standard.
2. How to recognize a qualified mask?
It’s important to know whether the masks we’re buying are real or fake. Below are some examples of how to spot the most counterfeited masks.
2.1. 3M N95 particulate respirator
3M is the most common N95 mask brand in China. We can differentiate real and fake ones in two ways:
1. Through the false proof mark provided by the brand
Different types of masks will be equipped with different false proof marks or security labels. For example, the 8210CN face mask has one on the opening of the box, which looks like this:
2. Through smell, printing and certification mark
A real 3M mask doesn’t have a noticeable smell when the package is opened, nor does the rubber band part have a pungent smell, but with a fake one, the smell is easy to notice. Next, a real 3M mask has clear laser printing words on it, while a fake one often has uneven ink printing, and sometimes the words are rough and dim. What’s more, the certificate labels should not be printed on the packaging box but stuck on the masks like this:
For other major brands of N95 and K95 masks, please refer to corresponding official websites for detailed methods for identifying authenticity.
2.2 Disposal surgical masks
1. Log in to the NMPA website.
First, find the registration number on the mask package. Usually, the format is X registration + year of registration + 264 + serial number. Then, you can log in on NMPA.
Enter the registration number on the package and click “enquire”. If the information input is correct but a match product information cannot be found, then the mask is not in line with the production standard and can be identified as fake.
2. Observation and tearing
In addition to the NMPA website, you can judge through a couple of simpler and cruder ways. Fake masks are often made of thin and rough materials, and some are even coarse to see:
Some others are opaque and waterproof and are hard to tell with bare eyes:
For such masks, you can pick a used one and try to tear it apart:
A faked mask can be easily ripped, while the real one is difficult to do so even if with a lot of force. The filter material in between may be ripped, but the outer layers are not so easy to break:
Although this method is more convenient and intuitive, there will be inevitable errors. Therefore, it only serves as a preliminary judgment and going to NMPA for inquiry is more recommended.
Some people may feel desperate to get masks, but please get them from reputable and trust-worthy ways and remember to use the methods above to check the masks’ quality if in doubt. Otherwise, it will be a waste of money and a failure in getting proper protection.