The surgical face mask is one of the hottest consumer products on the market right now. There may be no more important medical device to the average citizen these days. But as with anything else, not every face mask is as it would seem. A glut of counterfeit products has made it abundantly clear that NIOSH certification is critical in the coronavirus era.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is an agency within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its primary mission is to ensure safe working conditions through education, research, training, and more.
A facemask bearing the NIOSH logo indicates that it has been certified according to CDC and NIOSH standards. That means the facemask has been rigorously tested and inspected to ensure that it does what it is supposed to do. Herein lies the problem.
People Trust the Certification
The NIOSH logo is to personal protective equipment (PPE) what the UL symbol is to electric appliances. People see the logo and they trust the certification. The logo tells them that they can trust the product for safety and effectiveness. But what if a piece of PPE doesn’t have the logo? Worse yet, what if it has the logo but the logo is fraudulent?
Let us look at the lesser of the two evils first. A face mask not packaged with the NIOSH logo is one that has not been tested and certified by the agency. This is not a problem in and of itself. A lack of certification does not necessarily guarantee a product is ineffective. On the other hand, legitimate testing and certification guarantees effectiveness. Why buy a product that is not NIOSH certified?
Moving on to the topic of fraud, it is very real and presents legitimate dangers. Pop on over to the CDC website and you can find a long list of counterfeit respirators and face masks – complete with photographs and brand names. The CDC has done an extensive job of cataloging these counterfeit products so as to warn consumers.
Counterfeit manufacturers might honestly believe that their products are still safe. Maybe they are, but maybe they are not. In either case, misrepresenting NIOSH certification gives consumers a false sense of security. This could end up being dangerous to their health.
When in Doubt, Do Some Research
It should be clear why NIOSH certification is so important in the coronavirus era. Understandably, consumers do not always know what to purchase. There are so many options available from so many retailers that making a choice can feel overwhelming. According to Salt Lake City-based Alsco, the best thing to do when in doubt his conduct some research.
Alsco recommends starting with the CDC website. If you know a particular brand you are looking at, head over to the CDC site and see if it’s not listed on the agency’s page as fraudulent.
In the absence of any CDC information, you can look for reviews of the product in question. It’s true that reviews are not 100% reliable on every product. But they can at least get you pointed in a certain direction. From there you can do some research on the manufacturer.
Certification is equally important for both individual consumers and business managers. Alsco says that any businesses planning to use masks should only source them from reputable commercial face mask suppliers. Reusable masks can be sourced from a company that specializes in healthcare linens and uniforms.
In this day and age, NIOSH certification is critical. Do not buy a face mask that is not certified and verifiable.