As humanity trods on during the coronavirus pandemic era, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the use of face coverings as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is something we might have to deal with for a long time. As per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), good hand hygiene, social distancing, and the use of face masks are the best strategies we have at the moment to fight the spread of Covid-19. Some regions in Canadian supplier of PPE products have proceeded to mandate the wearing of masks in public, with several businesses choosing not to admit people without masks within their premises.
To help supply the country’s high demand for face masks and respirators, Health Canada has implemented a variety of temporary measures involving regulation standards of certain PPEs. This includes a strong global procurement effort to get masks from international suppliers.
For PPE manufacturers, this came as great news because it meant that conforming to regulatory standards was almost a voluntary practice. Unfortunately, this has opened the door for counterfeit products to penetrate the Canadian market.
In mid-April, Health Canada issued a product safety warning after identifying counterfeit N95 masks. According to the report, some of the N95 masks sourced from China did not meet the same performance standards set by the U.S National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
An N95 mask is designed to filter out at least 95% of harmful particles as small as 0.3 microns in size. Their special design allows them to provide a proper seal around the nose and mouth.
They are made with special fabrics that filter breathable air for the wearer and as such, are a good choice of respiratory protection more so for healthcare workers involved in providing care to Covid-19 patients.
To make your N95 mask shopping a lot less strenuous, we’ve created a list of stores from where Canadians can buy authentic N95 masks.
72hours Survival is among Canada’s top suppliers of emergency survival kits. The Vancouver-based business provides emergency readiness solutions as well as PPEs. The benefit of buying from 72hours is that it sells a wide range of NIOSH-approved N95 masks which means the customer has plenty of options to choose from.
A search query on ‘N95’ on the company’s online store will bring you brand products such as the Benehal N95 respirator pack of individually wrapped 20 pieces and the Shining Star N95 mask particulate respirator which cost $189.99 and $149.99 per package respectively. The company also offers free shipping on orders above CA$99.99.
All the products from 72hours have reviews from customers who’ve bought them which should work to your advantage as you’ll make a better-informed choice on what product you should go with.
2. Everbright Global
Everbright Global is a Canadian supplier of PPE products such as surgical gowns, face shields, and respiratory protection. The company sells NIOSH-approved N95 masks manufactured by BYD Precision, owner of the biggest mass-produced face mask plant in the world.
Everbright Global sells the N95 masks at an affordable price of CA$8.99 each. A single order of 20 pieces for CA$137.55. The company also takes bulk orders of up to 1,000 pieces but with an added 30% discount. It’s worth pointing out that Everbright offers free shipping on orders costing above $80.
Goltum is a Canadian supplier of PPE products that operates from Montreal and is involved in the provision of top of the line PPE. The company sells FDA certified N95 masks and their production factories have been whitelisted by the CDC. As per the company’s website, Goltum offers free shipping on orders exceeding $100 and fulfills its orders within 24 hours.
How You Can Prove If an N95 Mask Is Authentic or Not
1. Look for the FDA or NIOSH Logos on the Packaging
If an N95 mask has been cleared for use by NIOSH, the box should have the NIOSH name or logo as well as a NIOSH approval number and filter classification, which in this case is ‘N95’.
However, if the packaging has the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) logo, take it as a red flag because the FDA does not allow vendors to put their logo on the respirator box. What you should look for instead is ‘FDA Cleared’ since N95 masks only require clearance and not approval.
Checking for these markings is the first step in verifying whether an N95 mask supplier meets the right performance standards.
2. Check the Ear Loops
Authentic N95 masks will have elastic ear loops that fully wrap around the back of the head to keep the mask tightly sealed across the face without leaving any gaps. Fake masks, on the other hand, usually have elastic wraps around the ears.
Because people have different face and ear sizes, a fake N95 mask will not fit properly. While these sorts of masks might be fine for public use, the fact that they do not allow for a proper fit makes it unsuitable for medical use. That’s why healthcare workers usually have to do a seal check or test fit as well as training on how to wear an N95 mask.
Buy Authentic Because Your Life Depends on It
The novel coronavirus pandemic has left governments and health systems around the world in a difficult situation. More PPEs are desperately required to help curb the spread of the virus and hopefully alleviate the burden hospitals have had to bear in admitting and treating people who’ve tested positive with the coronavirus.
Manufacturers are rushing to supply the urgent demand of N95 respirators but they have little experience in making these products of which puts lives at risk. Vendors should, therefore, exercise extreme caution before buying any sort of PPE from global suppliers.
Use the tips highlighted above as a means of checking whether a mask is fake or not. Health Canada has also created a database of licensed manufacturers who can supply the market with authentic N95 masks.
While some protection is better than nothing, counterfeit N95 masks are simply not as effective as authentic respiratory protection.