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Counterfeit protective respirators: how to recognize a real FFP FFR N95 mask from a fake one?

Text updated on 2020-08-04

Counterfeit or non-compliant FFR FFP N95 masks are being sold on the Internet and in some stores. Here are some tips to find out if your respirators are of good quality.

Protective respirators are called FFR, for filtering facepiece respirator, and are of several types. Their primary purpose is to protect caregivers who are in prolonged contact with highly contagious patients.

In Europe, Russia, and the Maghreb countries, they are approved as FFPs (followed by a number that indicates the filtration efficiency). They are also called P1 to P3, abbreviated to FFP1-FFP3. In the United States, Mexico, Turkey, and India, they are certified as N, R, or P according to their oil resistance (followed by the percentage of filtration): In China they are certified as KN or KP95, in Australia and New Zealand P2, in South Korea Korea 1st class/KF94, in Japan DS/DL2, in Brazil PFF2.

To check that your FFP1 to FFP3 masks are of good quality :

  1. on the mask packaging, it should always be written:

    a. the name of the brand, manufacturer or supplier

    b. the product reference number

    c. A sequence consisting of the letters CE or NF, EN 149:2009 or EN 149:2001+A1:2009, the mask class (FFP1, 2 or 3) separated by a space from the letters R or NR

    d. the year of the end of the storage period

    e. the phrase "See manufacturer's information leaflet".

    f. the storage conditions recommended by the manufacturer (at least temperature and humidity) or an equivalent pictogram.

  2. The mask itself must contain the information a to d.

  3. The packaging must contain an information leaflet documenting the conditions of use, maintenance, and storage.

  4. The middle layer, white and opaque, is "the filter". To test its electret properties, bring it close to dust grains or very small pieces of paper. If static electricity attracts them, the mask is of good quality. If not, it is bad.

  5. The middle layer should be made of a plastic such as polythene or polypropylene [3], whereas a counterfeit mask will often use cheaper materials mixed with paper. Try to burn the middle layer with the flame of a lighter (in a safe environment). If it burns, the mask is bad. If it curls up, the mask is good quality (made of polypropylene). Under no circumstances should it burn for more than 5 seconds after removal of the flame.

For the N95 facepiece, a list of certified manufacturers is available on the NIOSH website.

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The standard that defines the characteristics of FFRs in Europe is :

Standard NF EN149 2001+A1 2009 (2009)

The list of NIOSH-certified N95 manufacturers.

For FFP2/N95 protective respirators, the electrostatic charge can increase the efficiency of mechanical filtering by 10 to 20 times.

Juang, P. S., & Tsai, P. (2020). N95 Respirator Cleaning and Reuse Methods Proposed by the Inventor of the N95 Mask Material. Journal of Emergency Medicine.

Further reading

What are the different types of masks?

Counterfeit surgical masks: how to recognize a real mask from a fake one?

Do I have to wear a mask inside / outside?

Can a mask be used after its expiration date?