I thought I was so efficient buying 2 cases of N95s.

I searched high and low because if you believe all the hubbub on the internet, you'd be led to believe that there were basically none of the N95s to be had anywhere. So I was kind of surprised when I saw gads of them available online. Maybe that should've been my first mistake, but I pressed on anyway.

Then of course, I saw a news bit online from WGME, basically saying the CDC say that up to 60% of the current N95 mask market is counterfeit. So as I start looking at the graphic provided by the CDC to tell which ones are fake, my heart sank. Mine were definitely fake. So I called a friend that works for 3M and had some questions.

First off, he says there is no shortage in the market.

That's a battle cry from the early part of 2020. He says 3M alone is producing millions and millions of masks a year now, so no trouble there. He also gave me some samples of the correct masks that definitely looked nothing like what I ordered online, so I definitely knew I'd been had by internet mask bandits.

He said right at 3M's website, you can find local retailers that carry 3M masks, and presumably, those folks may carry other legit brands as well. But really, it's all about the fit, and the fake ones typically don't fit correctly, which is basically the point of danger everyone should be concerned about within that realm.

So how do you tell which are fake?

It's actually pretty easy. One big tell is the straps. If they go around your ears, instead of around your head? Fake. If there are almost no markings of any kind? Fake. If it doesn't say "NIOSH" on it somewhere? Fake. NIOSH is the agency that evaluates the safety of the mask. If it doesn't say NIOSH approved in some manner? Fake.

Scope this graphic from the CDC website:


In fact, this particular section of the CDC's website offers many examples of both totally legit masks, as well as fake ones. Here's a photo of my own masks for comparison as well.


The one on the left is one I ordered online. Sure, it's black, and it looks cooler than a lot of the other masks, but that's not totally the point though, is it? The one on the right has all the clear markings the CDC says should be there, and I know it came from a reputable source.

It's too bad there are people out there who want to make money so bad they don't care how they do it, especially when it comes to safety equipment in the middle of a pandemic. But at least you can arm yourself with some knowledge and take care of yourself and your family, and maybe educate others you care about. Never hurts to help.

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