How to avoid buying counterfeit N95 and KN95 masks

VERNON, Ala. (WCBI) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning January 14, that close to 60 percent of masks claiming to be either N95s or KN95s, are actually counterfeits.

Durham Pharmacy in Vernon, Alabama says they regularly order KN95 masks by the thousands.

“The KN95 is sort of a way we’re able to have protection during this pandemic as we maybe ramp up supplies of the N95, which is preferred,” says pharmacist and co-owner Sam Durham.

While the CDC says the actual masks offer some of the best protection against the COVID-19 omicron variant, the counterfeits do not meet the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health standards.

“It’s very difficult for consumers to look online and determine whether or not a mask is appropriate, whether or not the packaging is appropriate for the mask,” Durham says.

Durham says the actual masks are marked with a KN95 designation and serial number.

“That tells you that it is China-approved and hence, an FDA allowed mask to use during this pandemic,” he says.

The labels can be found either directly on the masks, their packaging, their boxes, or all three.

“Also, all the masks have either a two or three-year expiration date,” Durham says. “So you want to watch for that.”

The CDC says all N95 masks have a NIOSH approval label on or in their packaging. But Durham says people also have to make sure it is an N95 specifically approved for medical use.

“Any mask that has a respirator or an opening to the outside is not to be used during the pandemic for protection from the virus,” he cautions. “This allows unfiltered air to escape into the environment.”

Durham says the pharmacy has maintained long-term relationships with trusted suppliers to make sure everything on their shelves is safe for their customers.

“We’ve always made an effort to refuse those masks that have come shipped to us that don’t appear to be legitimate and correct,” he says.

For those with questions about any KN95 or N95 masks they might have purchased, Durham says they can bring them to the pharmacy and he and his staff would be happy to check them.

“Millions of people in our country are relying on the KN95 for protection now,” he says.

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