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Verify: Is your mask a counterfeit?

CDC data showed 60% of KN95 masks sold in the US from 2020-2021 failed to meet safety standards.

MICHIGAN, USA — Experts maintain wearing a mask is one of the most effective defenses against coronavirus.

Unfortunately, federal authorities have determined some of the PPE arriving in the country is fake.

When US Customs and Border Protection agents unboxed an unlicensed shipment at the Houston Seaport last year, they found nearly 200,000 fake N95s masquerading as the real deal.

CBP officials have since seized millions more, bound for hospitals, governments and retail stores.


"Can you tell whether an N95 or KN95 mask is authentic?"



This is true.

Yes, there are several methods which can be used to determine whether a a mask or respirator is genuine. 


N95 Respirators 

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is responsible for the work of vetting models from dozens of manufacturers.

Before a mask receives the agency’s seal of approval, it’s put through the paces in NIOSH’s Respirator Approval Program to ensure compliance with minimum safety standards.

The N95 designation, by definition, entails the mask has been guaranteed to filter out 95% of particulates.

Genuine versions certified by safety regulators feature printed labels, which include the NIOSH logo, a model number and lot number.

There should also be an approval number in addition to one of the following designations:

  • N95
  • N99
  • N100
  • R95
  • R99
  • R100
  • P95
  • P99
  • P100
Credit: NIOSH

KN95 Respirators

KN95 masks are not certified by any federal agency, but by an international authority.

Like N95s, they’re also guaranteed to filter 95% of particulates.

Researchers at ECRI, however, revealed as many as 70% of KN95s tested failed to meet that safety benchmark.

Similar to the N95, a genuine version should feature a designation and one of two approval numbers:

  • GB2626-2019
  • GB2626-2006

In general, according to federal safety regulators, if your mask exhibits any of the following hallmarks, it may not be legitimate:

  • No markings at all on the filtering facepiece respirator
  • No approval (TC) number on filtering facepiece respirator or headband
  • No NIOSH markings (specific to N95 masks)
  • NIOSH spelled incorrectly (specific to N95 masks) 
  • 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) (specific to N95 masks) 
  • Filtering facepiece respirator has ear loops instead of headbands (specific to N95 masks) 
  • Pictures on the packaging are not clear

To further verify the authenticity of an N95 respirator, consult NIOSH's database of approval numbers.

The agency also maintains a gallery of masks and respirators known to be fraudulent for reference.  

The VERIFY team works to separate fact from fiction so that you can understand what is true and false. Please consider subscribing to our daily newsletter, text alerts and our YouTube channel. You can also follow us on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. Learn More »

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