Over the past year, many companies from diverse industries tried to navigate the N95 market. You want to make N95 buying decisions that keep clients and employees safe, meet quality and price targets, are paired with vendors to ensure you have a full pipeline, and you do this by making the right choices. This is a difficult task in and of itself. Add confusion, misinformation, and the flood of fakes on the market and it becomes even more difficult.

After listening to customers' concerns about sourcing quality, we compiled the following checklist of five things you should look for when purchasing N95 mask. This checklist will help you ask the right questions to make informed PPE purchasing decisions.


What is NIOSH? It is the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a division within the CDC. NIOSH, like other regulatory and governing bodies, has strict requirements and tests that all products, production lines, manufacturers, and quality control systems must comply with in order to be approved.

This process can take between 4 and 8 months. This lengthy and rigorous process ensures N95 masks are safe for all customers and employees. To be considered a N95 Particulate Respirator, N95 masks need to be approved by NIOSH.

Legitimate vs. Counterfeit

Many counterfeit N95 respirators are currently on the market. CBP, the FBI and other market-leading US companies, like 3M, are looking for counterfeit N95 masks and will confiscate them at entry points and warehouses throughout the country. How do you distinguish between a genuine N95 mask or a fake N95 respirator. There are certain signs that can be identified as a fake designer bag or N95 mask.

Pay attention to the consistency and quality of the N95 masks. Are they all of the same quality? Are there differences or variations? Is the box or mask required to carry a lot number, which is NIOSH's requirement?

You should also inspect the labels while you are looking at the construction. Of course, counterfeits can look very similar but have different labels. Double-check your NIOSH TC approval numbers. You can also use TC numbers, similar to a vehicle identification (VIN), to verify the validity of your mask using the CDC certified equipment search. Always buy directly from the manufacturer and not from major distributors or retailers. This is the best way to avoid counterfeits.

You can check with the manufacturer to confirm that the lot # was legitimate and that it was sold to your mask source as a distributor. Use common sense. If the amount available or the price charged is not comparable to market pricing, be suspicious.

US-Made From Globally Sourced Materials vs. 100% US Made and Manufactured

Pay attention to where your mask is coming from if your company plans to buy US-Made PPE. Is all of the material, such as melt blown filter material, made in the USA or are they sourced overseas? This can impact the performance and consistency your N95 masks.

A domestic vendor that sources all its N95 materials from the US will have a shorter supply chain. This allows for faster response to customers and a more flexible scale to meet your needs. Internationally purchasing N95 masks can pose a quality problem due to the more stable and controlled supply chain. Important mask materials, such as the N95 static filters' melt blown fabric, can be lost in shipping overseas. This makes them less safe for clients and employees.

Fit and Comfort

Manufacturers typically design N95 masks to provide protection and not comfort. The N95 respirator is a moulded-cup design. It has head straps that mold to your face and block 95% of test particles.

Although this design was less comfortable in the past it is still important because it allows employees to wear their masks and follow the rules. It is important to choose a vendor who places safety and comfort first. Is the mask easier to breathe through? Is the mask suitable for all workers? Is the fit and design of the mask able to reduce eyeglass fogging? The design details will ensure that healthcare workers and front line workers can perform well even on long shifts and 12 hour days.

N95 masks are critical components of a PPE policy. All persons who need to wear them should fit-test them to ensure they perform to their full potential. Distributors and manufacturers of masks have fit testing kits that can be used to assist employers in meeting the requirements for annually fitting each employee.


When investing in an N95 mask, you might consider price to be the most important. Our customers have discovered that there is no way to price lung protection. There are many counterfeits and cheap imports. With something as important as the N95, you get what your pay for.

Find a partner that specializes in engineering innovation and materials to keep prices competitive.

These five N95 evaluation points can help you make informed purchasing decisions. More N95 tips will be available on our blog. Remember, if your mask meets all of these criteria, you are well on your way towards an N95 respirator which is legitimate, high-quality, and protects your clients and employees.

Author's Bio: 

AccuMed is part a new generation of high-quality, affordable health and personal care products that bridge the gap between affordability, innovation, and ease of use.