How to Buy a Real N95 Mask Online

A yr into the coronavirus pandemic, shopping for a heavy-duty medical masks on-line stays downright maddening.

The most coveted masks to maintain protected towards Covid-19 has been the N95, the gold customary for pandemic safety due to its tight match and 95 % effectivity in filtering airborne particles. Then there’s the KN95 from China, a masks for medical staff, which additionally provides excessive filtration and is considerably looser becoming.

But these masks have been removed from simple to purchase on the web. When the pandemic hit final yr, they instantly grew to become scarce as well being care staff and governments rushed to acquire them. The demand was so intense that a grey market sprang up for them.

Yet even after provides have improved, it’s typically not simple to seek out genuine N95s and KN95s on-line. That’s as a result of there are few brand-name makers, so it may be laborious to know which of the handfuls of producers are dependable. And counterfeiters proceed to flood the market, even on trusted websites like Amazon.

The result’s incessantly frustration, when carrying a heavy-duty masks is extra vital than ever. Last week, federal well being officers emphasised the necessity for all of us to have tightfitting masks due to new fast-spreading coronavirus variants.

“People don’t know what’s legit, and so they don’t know which suppliers are legit,” stated Anne Miller, an govt director of Project N95, a nonprofit that helps folks purchase protecting coronavirus tools. “We’ve had that challenge because the very starting of the pandemic.”

I not too long ago spent hours evaluating masks on-line and virtually purchased a pack of counterfeits on Amazon. Thankfully, I averted falling into the entice and finally discovered reliable, high-quality masks from a reliable on-line retailer.

Along the best way, I discovered lots about learn how to spot fraudulent masks listings and learn how to sidestep faux critiques. So right here’s learn how to house in on actual medical-grade masks that may maintain you and your family members protected.

My journey started on the web site for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There I discovered charts of N95 and KN95 masks that the company has examined, together with the make, mannequin quantity and filtration effectivity.

After some studying, I discovered concerning the trade-offs between the 2 varieties of masks. The N95s usually have bands that strap over the again of your head, which is what makes them comfortable. They might be uncomfortable to put on for lengthy intervals.

The KN95s, which the Food and Drug Administration has accepted for emergency use by well being care staff, have ear loops for a decent match that’s barely extra snug than an N95. The draw back is that the KN95 leaks a bit extra air than an N95.

If you might be typically in high-risk areas like hospitals, N95s could also be extra appropriate. But should you simply want a protecting masks for extra informal use, just like the occasional journey to the grocery retailer, KN95s are in all probability enough.

After doing the analysis, I made a decision a KN95 masks from Powecom, a Chinese model, was greatest for my functions. The masks scored 99 % filtration effectivity within the C.D.C.’s exams.

From there, I visited Amazon, the place I purchase all the things from pet food to batteries within the pandemic. That’s when issues went awry.

When I typed “Powecom KN95” into Amazon’s search field, the masks immediately popped up with a ranking of 4.5 stars. I rapidly clicked “Add to Cart.”

But earlier than testing, I scrolled all the way down to learn the critiques. There had been about 130 — together with a handful of one-star critiques from aggrieved patrons who stated the masks had been most definitely faux. I emptied my buying cart.

How had I virtually purchased a counterfeit? Saoud Khalifah, the founding father of Fakespot, an organization that gives instruments to detect faux listings and critiques on-line, stated a third-party vendor had in all probability taken management of the product itemizing and bought fakes to make a fast buck.

“It’s a little bit of a Wild West,” he stated. “The regular customers that store on Amazon have no idea that they only purchased a faux masks. This is the most important crucial drawback: You assume it’s actual, and instantly you get sick.”

Mr. Khalifah introduced different examples of questionable masks that had been being bought on Amazon:

  • A pack of fifty masks was highlighted on Amazon this week because the No. 1 new launch in ladies’s trend scarves. Obviously, masks will not be scarves, which was a giveaway that one thing was off. The itemizing description additionally changed the entire letter A’s with accented characters. This was a method used to bypass Amazon’s fraud detection programs, Mr. Khalifah stated. Amazon eliminated the itemizing after I known as about it.

  • Another pack of 20 masks appeared enticing and was described as accepted by the C.D.C. It even had constructive critiques with a median of 4.4 stars. But the critiques revealed that almost all clients had obtained the masks totally free, in all probability an incentive to go away constructive suggestions. One lukewarm evaluation from somebody who had paid for the product famous that the masks had been “skinny and really, very large.”

  • Mr. Khalifah’s software program additionally detected that the reviewers of one other pack of 100 masks, which had unanimous five-star scores, had a historical past of writing promotional critiques for different manufacturers.

Amazon stated in a press release that it prohibits the sale of counterfeit merchandise and invests to make sure its coverage is adopted. It stated it had particular insurance policies for N95 and KN95 masks, together with a course of for vetting stock and taking motion on those that bought fakes.

Amazon additionally stated it had addressed the questionable Powecom masks that I almost bought, in addition to the masks marketed as a shawl. It added that there was no proof that the pack of 20 masks was counterfeited and didn’t touch upon the pack of 100 masks.

Mr. Khalifah cautioned that the fakes he noticed on Amazon may simply as simply be on web sites for different large retailers, comparable to Walmart and eBay, that enable third-party sellers to ship merchandise. To purchase genuine masks, he stated, I ought to take a much less conventional method to buying on-line.

Armed with this recommendation, I continued my seek for the Powecom masks.

I visited the producer’s web site, which listed steps for verifying {that a} masks is actual. That concerned scanning a bar code on the bundle with a telephone digicam. Then I did an online seek for the masks, which introduced me to, a web-based retailer that exhibits documentation stating that it’s an licensed distributor of Powecom masks within the United States.

That was extra reassuring. So I ordered a pack of 100 for $99. When the bundle arrived within the mail, I scanned the bar codes to substantiate their authenticity. They had been the true deal.

Another path I may have taken was to order masks immediately from the producer. Verified masks producers like DemeTech, in Miami, and Prestige Ameritech, in Texas, promote N95s via their web sites.

But ordering immediately from a producer presents different challenges. Often it’s a must to purchase a big amount to scale back the fee.

So what should you simply need to purchase a couple of to strive on? Ms. Miller’s nonprofit Project N95 buys bulk orders of masks and breaks them up so folks can purchase smaller batches. “It’s a really painstaking course of to undergo,” she stated.

No kidding.

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