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How to check the authenticity of an N95 or equivalent Respirators?

A N95 mask or a N95 respirator is a Filtering Face-Piece Respirator which has become increasingly popular in India since the COVID-19 Pandemic has affected us. The N in the name stands for the filter classification, which is ‘“Not resistant to oil’ whereas, 95 is the filter efficiency percentage. It meets the NIOSH 42 CFR 84 N95 requirements for a minimum 95% filtration efficiency against solid and liquid aerosols that do not contain oil. It has a close facial fit forming a seal around the nose and mouth, and prevents 0.3 Micron particles from entering. Other respirators include N99, N100, KN95, KN99, KN100, FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3 . However, all respirators are typically similar and prevent >90% airborne particles. All the counties have their own standards for each mask type, for example, USA uses NIOSH 42 CFR 84 standard, China uses GB2626 standard, Europe uses EN 149 standard and India uses IS9473 standard to certify the effectiveness of respirators.

There are respirators being sold in the market that are counterfeit and do not meet the performance criteria. However, it is essential to check the authenticity of your mask before using it.

An authentic N95 respirator has the following markings on the packaging or the respirator itself:

NIOSH name in block letters or logo;

Filter classification and filter efficiency level (N95);

Approval number;

Manufacturing lot number;

Model number, and

A Registered trademark or brand name.

Similarly, other equivalent masks have such markings and are NIOSH or FDA verified. Checking these markings is the first step in the verification of an authentic respirator. It is required to verify all of the above markings from the NIOSH Certified Equipment List or the trusted source website . Alternatively, you can also call the customer care to verify the authenticity of the N95 respiration.

Some of the other traits of counterfeit masks include include-sold at lower prices in order to appeal cost-conscious customers, decorative fabrics or add-ons, misspelling of NIOSH, no markings at all on the respirator, claims of approval for children, loose ear loops or headbands.

When not put to use immediately, the respirator should be stored with its original packaging. Ensure that the respirator is away from contaminated areas, dust, sunlight, excessive moisture and damaging chemicals. It should be used within 5 years from the date of manufacture.

N95 mask is not reusable and should be replaced when it becomes dirty, damaged, or difficult to breathe through. One must also learn How to properly wear and dispose of an N95 mask?

The N95 produced by HALO has five layered filters. The top most exterior layer is Non-Woven Spun Bond Fabric, followed by two layers of Virgin(MasterBatch) Non-Woven Melt Blown Fabric. The next layer is the Needle Punch Fabric, also commonly known as the Hot Air Cotton. And the innermost layer is the Hydrophilic Spun Bond Fabric. It is an absorbent material, and as such soaks up sweat and removes irritation of the skin(last/skin layer). This ensures easy breathability and one can wear the mask for a longer duration. For details on the certifications of HALO masks please refer here.

All these are non-woven materials ,hence, the N95 mask should not be boiled , steamed and washed because it will disintegrate the filter medium material.

In case you want to place a bulk order, always test a sample. A convenient way is to cut open the N95 mask and pull out the third layer made of melt-blown to perform a flame test or a water test to check the authenticity of the mask.

Water resistant test- if the water leaks through, the fabric fails.

Non-flammability test- fabric should melt down with the flame and not catch fire.

With the availability of different masks available in India being sold under different brand names, it is essential to know that you are buying an authentic one as your safety must not be compromised.

We can only beat this disease by ensuring an effective usage of masks and by practicing Social Distancing.

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