SwRI: Testing reveals ‘counterfeit’ KN95 masks

Testing service offered to healthcare industry, organizations with results in 3 days

KN95 masks from China may be throwing consumers for a loop and not protecting them from the COVID-19 virus.

SAN ANTONIOSouthwest Research Institute has revealed that 8 of 11 different brands of counterfeit KN95 masks tested by the organization were manufactured in China, according to Dr. Imad Khalek, the program’s senior program manager.

Khalek said KN95 is the Chinese version of the American-made N95 masks that are now hard to find.

He said 73% of the counterfeit masks failed and were only 63% efficient, instead of 95% or higher that you get with real N95 masks.

“They did not perform as expected,” Khalek said.

Khalek said the fake masks did not meet U.S. standards set by the National Institute of Occupational Health Safety, the certifying arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Khalek said NIOSH certifies only N95 masks.

Soon after the COVID-19 pandemic began, SwRI switched from testing engine emissions to testing emission of particles through masks.

Khalek said it was vital to protect front line healthcare workers.

“Maybe hundreds of millions of dollars are spent by various healthcare systems in hospitals on counterfeit KN95 masks,” Khalek said.

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He said that is why SwRI is offering to test samples submitted by the healthcare industry and organizations for $600 to $1,000.

"We can check those and provide you with the information," he said.

Khalek said there is a three-day turnaround for the results.

About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.