During this time when N95 respirators are in short supply and needed for essential frontline medical workers, it is important to be aware that the personal protective equipment (PPE) you’re using may not be approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

The CDC NIOSH website has information on how to identify "fake" N95 respirators.

Dr. James McGlothlin, Ph.D. of McGlothlin Ergonomics and VEM Systems, LLC recently posted information on the American Industrial Hygiene Association daily bulletin board regarding "fake" N95 respirator awareness:

"As we all know, there is an urgent need to get N95 respirators to the front lines, especially to medical personnel. Procurement personnel from front line and first-responder organizations are on the hot seat for ordering and supplying these respirators, along with other PPE to save lives. Because of high demand and low supply several entrepreneurial start-up companies around the world are filling the demand – often with fake respirators and other PPE. As Industrial Hygienists (IH's), we need to be at the table with procurement to make sure they don't fill orders with respirators and related PPE that does not work. There are several sites where IH's can point procurement managers to help them understand differences. However, as IH's we need to keep our message simple and clearly communicate to them what works and what does not. A quick search of the internet on keywords such as "fake N95 respirators" will provide enough evidence that there are many manufacturers who are cashing in on unsuspecting procurement managers. We can stop this by insisting that we need to be shoulder-to-shoulder with procurement when ordering such supplies."

It is not enough to dismiss our concerns if procurement managers say they only use trusted suppliers. What does that mean in an emergency?

When lives hang in the balance, procurement needs to get it right. We have the training, experience, and education to help. For starters, I suggest guiding procurement managers to the NIOSH website on counterfeit respirators.

NIOSH provides some simple guidelines, along with pictures, to identify N95 fakes, such as:

  • No markings at all on the filtering facepiece respirator
  • No approval (TC) number on filtering facepiece respirator or headband
  • No NIOSH markings; NIOSH spelled in correctly
  • Presence of decorative fabric or other decorative add-ons (e.g., sequins)
  • Claims of approval for children (NIOSH does not approve any type of respiratory protection for children)
  • Filtering facepiece respirator has ear loops instead of headbands

Tokio Marine America customers can contact their loss control representative or email TMALossControl@tmamerica.com for more information. Please visit our loss control page for more information regarding our services.

About Author

Greg Slaton,
Consultant, Loss Control Department at Tokio Marine America
Greg Slaton is a Sr. Loss Control Consultant with our Casualty Loss Control group. His focus is in Industrial Hygiene services. He has 34 years of experience in loss control and has been with Tokio Marine America for 16 years. Greg is a member of the American Industrial Hygiene Association and the American Society of Safety Professionals.

About Tokio Marine America

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