If you really want to be sure, go with Moldex. Moldex N95 masks are made (in the USA) with a unique process where the N95 filter is covered in a hard plastic mesh. Their AirWave line in particular is truly superior to any other N95 on the market, because they own a patent on using corrugation in the mask body. You can be sure nobody is counterfeiting these — they’re a niche product for construction workers, not something people flock to for Covid protection. Just be aware they’re clunkier than even a typical N95 because of the plastic casing — “Darth Vader mask” is a term I’ve heard a lot while wearing them.
The Kimtech 53358 has far superior breathability compared to the Moldex 2200. Most importantly, the Kimtech "Duckmask" is foldable, and easily stores inside of an envelope, purse, handback, backpack (etc. etc.)
Moldex 2200 is cheap, solid, and durable. Its straps are a bit tight but provide a superior seal. The Kimtech feels looser and probably isn't quite as good of a seal as the Moldex.
Still, the greater comfort and cheaper price from the Kimtech 53358 has made it my N95 mask of choice. Being able to fold the mask and store it away is a huge advantage, it means I can carry 3, 4, 5 Kimtech 53448 with me at all times (in case I sneeze in the mask and want to throw it away).
Sneezing inside of a Moldex 2200 is more high-risk, because its unlikely you're carrying a spare. The mask design is just too bulky to seriously carry spares.
I do own 3M stock, and 3M masks are also pretty good :-) Maybe I should plug them so that the stock price goes up? Unfortunately, 3M masks seem to be sold out and/or at much higher prices whenever I'm shopping for masks.
EDIT: Got the number wrong initially, woops.
Also, the corrugation in the AirWave line is absolutely essential once you’ve tried it. Even the AirWave masks that don’t have valves have lower exhale resistance than 3M masks that do have valves, like the 3M 8511. It’s a night-and-day difference to me in terms of comfort — having a conversation in an AirWave is so easy it’s almost like wearing a surgical mask, and with the added bonus of it not touching your mouth when you speak.
I wear a Moldex 4600, which have both the Handi-Strap and AirWave features.
They aren’t foldable, but they’re worth it.
They also manufacture masks (although those are sold now, I’ve purchase them before). They seem to be reselling American made masks now:
I doubt that a NIOSH marking is harder to counterfeit than the rest of the mask.
Also, I'm very surprised at that claim that the straps are expensive. They are just elastic strips as far as I can tell. I've never had any issues with hair snags. Main issue I've had is that they break off of the mask at the weld point. I end up glueing them back on with hot glue.
The straps on higher-quality respirators are not just elastic, they’re some kind of finely braided textile that doesn’t snag hair. The sole difference between the 3M 8210 and the 3M 8210+ is whether it has these more expensive straps.
As for the serial numbers: hmm, maybe that could help, but if each number is unique and 1/10th of them actually get checked, then the counterfeiter can just copy a bunch of unique ones and go undetected 99% of the time. (1/10th of the good masks and 1/10th of the counterfeits would be checked, and a detected duplicate would have to be in the intersection of those two sets). In fact if good masks come from known and trusted suppliers, they're even less likely to be checked, so more of the counterfeits can get through.
What we really need is an affordable way to test masks at home. It doesn't have to be super precise. A green-yellow-red led for good-marginal-bad would be fine.
Unless you're some kind of hacker who can add their product to this list: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/topics/respirators/disp_part...
It seems pretty hard to counterfeit.
I will also try to order some masks from the guy who tested the Amazon masks (I'll have to find the link again).
The big-name brands (Moldex, 3M, Kimtech) have good elastic. But I've been shopping at the $1 (and below) price point, and there's some pretty crap N95 masks out there. There's a lot of smaller brands trying to make a name for themselves right now, and are just barely qualifying for N95 ratings.
Still, the crappiest N95 is leagues better than the best KN95 I've ever used.
I'm mostly willing to give the smaller manufacturers a try. Though with Omicron numbers falling in my area (about damn time), maybe this will all be behind us soon...
Buying from a “fulfilled by Amazon” trusted vendor won’t necessarily help either, because Amazon also bins all products with a given UPC into a single bucket, no matter who the seller is.
7 months ago, 624 comments were posted in a discussion about Amazon returns neither being painless nor simple. My favorite is this write up noting that returns are only processed if your predicted future revenue exceeds the return requested:
But in general, Amazon won’t honor their purchase protection policy for high value items without extensive argument and delaying tactics, which puts shoppers at risk for precisely the purchased that most need protection.
So, I opened up the OpenAI playground to see if GPT-3 could do better. I prompted: "Q: Is a product called "KXZM 24V LED Strip Light Natural White 600LEDs, 16.4ft Flexible SMD2835 High Brightness 4000-4500K No-Waterproof IP33 LED Tape Lights" waterproof? A:" and it answered "It's not. As you can see, this product is not waterproof. It says so in the product description." (GPT-3 is always a bit mean to me, but in this case, I obviously deserved it. What else could "no-waterproof" mean, ya idiot ;)
My conclusion is that GPT-3 could easily filter out products that don't actually match a search query, and prevent disreputable sellers from abusing naive keyword matching, making the shopping experience better for everyone. And, Amazon obviously has the talent and compute resources to build their own model like GPT-3. But they don't do it! They don't care if you buy the wrong thing or that the search results are irrelevant. As long as you click something and buy it, they make money.
I don't know how this works out long term, but I'm guessing that people don't notice they're not waterproof, and Chinese Factory A that did keyword optimization makes more money than Chinese Factory B that sprayed the LEDs with a conformal coating. (If the return rate gets too high, you just pick 8 more random all-caps letters and start a new company.)
Simple use of an API could solve this problem in seconds. Customers would be happier. We wouldn't be rewarding manipulation. It's easy. And yet, they don't. They just "select * from products where keywords like '%$1'".
My conclusion is that Amazon simply doesn't care. They're #1, and you can't get better than #1, right? If they kill a few people in a pandemic with counterfeit masks, who cares? #2 DREAMS they were killing people in a pandemic!
If Congress doesn't act, plaintiffs' attorneys will. It'll be the McDonald's coffee case all over again. They're not just asking for it, they're begging.
Until that happens, they simply DGAF. As you say, they're #1, and in Amazon-world, that means you stop trying.
Let's be clear about something
GPT-3 is state of the art. It is really good. It cost A LOT to develop.
I don't think Amazon replicating it is trivial.
I'm pretty sure I've gotten counterfeit GE light bulbs from them. It was an appliance bulb, packaging looked right, the bulb died within a day. I found another at a local grocery store, same packaging, slightly different tint to the glass, and it's been going for years now (in an oven that I frequently run at 550 F).
f3 - Fight Flash Fraud¶
f3 is a simple tool that tests flash cards capacity and performance to see if
they live up to claimed specifications. It fills the device with pseudorandom
data and then checks if it returns the same on reading.
F3 stands for Fight Flash Fraud, or Fight Fake Flash.
1) If anything, the company leadership has demonstrated their amorality when it comes to exchanging dollars for things people want
2) The company leadership doesn't feel the need to be particularly hand-holdy to a public that is still running them dry on Ivermectin as fast as it comes in.
... but there's nothing really stopping the government from saying "If you're going to sell medical supplies you must be regulated as a medical supplier" other than lack of will.
I heard about Project N95 today, which seems legit: https://www.projectn95.org/
Eric Ries (The Lean Startup, LTSE) was a co-founder of this coalition. Him and the other stakeholders of the coalition worked to make sure the coalition members were legit.
Prices are anything between 65ct and 1.10€ in supermarkets, and upwards of 1.70€ in gas stations. All various chinese brands, no 3M or such. Though they have some certification prints/seals/QR-codes on the bag and sometimes on a paper leaflet in the bag.
edit: we call them FFP2 here, btw.
Just go to the official USA N95 page. All available products in the USA are listed there.
If anything seems suspect, double-check the official listing on that webpage.
Grainger, Uline, WBMason, Home Depot to name a few. If you want to actually trust the product and supply chain, spend a few bucks more.
Its not that much more expensive, and these other stores are much more honest.
USA has plenty of masks at the $1/mask price point with full N95 rating. There are also a ton of small companies / startups who started manufacturing N95 masks seeing the opportunity for the pandemic.
The main benefit of N95 is a strap that wraps all the way around the head (N95 American standard is higher quality and costs a bit more because of this strap). KN94 or whatever the Korean standard is has only ear-loops, so your ears get quite tired from all the stress over time.
Grainger, Uline, WBMason, Home Depot to name a few.
The KF94 masks I have come with a little hook that you can use to connect the ear loops in the back. This produces a tighter fit and also saves your ears.
The intro to ConsumerLab's review of KN95 masks  says:
> We reviewed many KN95 masks sold on Amazon but found only one currently on the FDA's list of authorized respirators that we recommend, and we found two that should be avoided. We also found an FDA-authorized KN95 through an online direct distributor in the U.S.
(EDIT: details are available to subscribers, but the U.S. distributor they recommend is https://bonafidemasks.com, which was also recommended in a sibling a comment on this page by codemac.)
Care to share?
I wonder if a good system would be to beef up quality checks on imported. Make sure things are what they are and made with materials you want for the health of you population as I have little doubt many kids toys, furniture's, building materials and food plastics etc are probably not as safe as you'd want or blatantly containing banned items.
I was thinking a good way yo do it would be a combination of 1) importers pay for the inspections rather than the nominal current fee and 2) importers could get a 'grade' kind of like financial ratings.
As importers show good practice over time their grade reflects this and less goods are inspected and cost to import go down. This could create real value to certification and if done right it would be something groups strongly protect. It would stop people jumping on trends with dodgy products as new importers would have to pay upfront for inspections and risk losing their goods, which would be a game changer for product quality.
I think something like this would have so many benefits in removing counterfeit and healthier products in countries. Also I wonder if it would level the playing field in manufacturing domestically for developed nations, so companies doing the right thing are not disadvantaged so much to those willing to cut corners. Also would probably have a huge flow-on effect to drug importation as I imagine a bunch of this happens with less reputable importers but Im guessing here.
Anyway talking from a very non-expert position so likely flawed view... but strongly feel this is something that that needs to be dealt with for counterfeit/health reasons.
There's no reason there wouldn't be domestic counterfeit goods, and quality has more to do with what people are willing to pay. True, Chinese goods tend to be low quality because they're made in China so they can be as cheap as possible, but Apple also has a lot of production there, they just use reputable vendors.
I'm sure other stores that have third party marketplaces like Walmart and Home Depot, or sites like eBay also contribute to this issue, but we all know it's likely mostly an Amazon problem.
Amazon allows and profits from counterfeits in a lot of products, not just KN95s. Amazon should be held liable for not taking due care in ensuring personal protection equipment is not up to the certifications they sell them as.
How difficult would it be for this single product line to be validated by someone at Amazon?
I heard a podcast about them. It might have been Planet Money. They ramped up production at the start of the pandemic, but then could not sell their supply. They were not allowed to advertise on Facebook because PPE was supposed to be reserved for the medical community, but then the medical community wasn’t buying either for budgetary reasons and fear of counterfeits.
Not all, strictly speaking. I see one Powecom mask listed under the "Respirator Assessment Results Considered as Counterfeit and/or Misuse of Company Name" section of the CDC's site . Open the link, scroll down to that heading, click on the "G" tab, then Cmd+F for "Guangzhou Powecom Labor Insurance Supplies" and you'll see it.
That said, I suspect it was maybe just a slightly sub-standard batch. The minimum filtration efficiency was still >93%, not anywhere near as bad as some others on that list. I still plan on buying the Powecom KN95s from Bona Fide Masks in the future. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I buy 100's at a time though, so I always have plenty of overlap between orders.
So I don't this it is incredulous thing :)
I've ordered KN95 masks from Amazon twice because I couldn't find them elsewhere and needed them for travel. The first time, the masks I received looked nothing like the masks advertised, and felt like they were made of tissue paper. The most recent time, the masks I received had clearly been opened before and poorly re-sealed into plastic bags.
I mean the equipment "fits" "at home" (lol)
I wonder if its possible to burn masks and analyze the spectrum of the light emitted by the burning masks. Might need a hyperspectral camera for that and it might not yield any useful information.
Price vary, but they run about $2 a mask give or take a bit. You can generally reuse them for a while, assuming you don't work in a hospital - the usual reason to dispose of them is if pathogens are on them, but if you're only using it for protection against covid, the virus dies quickly when outside a host. I don't go out a whole lot because I work from home so I usually use one mask for at least a week, often several weeks. If you're going out frequently, I've seen a recommendation to rotate through a couple of active masks, giving the virus a few days to die off.
https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02550-8 is a brief Nature post from Peter Tsai, who invented this electrostatic filter. In it he says that the charge are "permanent," and adds:
> They wanted to sterilize the masks for reuse without damaging them or destroying the electrostatic charge. I knew that heat would not alter the charge, but that alcohol would erase it.
The N95DECON project says that masks can be reused if stored at room temperature and do not lose efficiency: https://www.n95decon.org/publications#time
I see some studies that find that various decontamination methods (high heat, various disinfectants) can cause the charge to dissipate, e.g., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7724761/ - but I'm not advocating doing any of those, I'm just advocating leaving it hanging on a hook by your door when you get home. And, interestingly, those studies show that while filtration may drop below 95%, it's still pretty high, so I think that yes, a discharged N95 is still more effective than a cloth mask. But it'd be good to find a direct study.
I'm having trouble finding a source that says the filtration performance drops after a day. I did find something that says that the N95 standard requires it must keep working for at least 24 hours, but that's the other direction.
(And, anecdotally... the masks I ordered are shipped stacked together, not individually wrapped, in a cardboard box. They've presumably been in the box for a while at the warehouse. While it's true that cardboard is an insulator, so is air, and I'm not sure that the mask hanging by my door is losing charge any faster than the mask sitting in the box.)
One thing that does seem to be true is that getting the mask wet can cause the charge to dissipate. If I'm wearing my mask in humid conditions and biking (I usually leave my mask on if I'm stopping frequently), I'll notice that it gets damp, and I do change it when that happens. If your home is extraordinarily humid, maybe put your mask in a brown paper bag or something.
The problem with the regular masks is that a huge amount of air still goes around them. You can do an experiment - firmly push a KN95 respirator into your face with 4 fingers and try breathing through it. You'll feel more resistance, you'll actually smell the filtering material, you'll see how the mask puffs up when you exhale. You let go and most of these effects go away, as the air is just going between the mask and your face.
P.S. I was researching the topic before taking a longish flight, looking to minimize my chance of catching COVID before a tropical vacation to ~0% and was rather astounded that full-face masks, like the gas ones aren't even allowed in the airports. I didn't catch COVID that time, but I wonder how much transmission could we cut off if we offered something like this in places where people are forced to sit together for prolonged time.
Also, because they’re almost invariably sold for use in construction and carpentry, not medical settings, they use exhale vents. Some people think this is a big problem, and dismiss these respirators as a class because of it. Respirators without exhale valves, as well as ones with voice diaphragms for speech, are also available for medical use, but these are unusual and AFAIK didn’t exist before Covid.
I don't think most people want, need, or would tolerate something that extreme though. KN95 or N95 is good enough.
Anything that doesn't fit tightly is useless for protecting yourself. If you inhale and you don't feel the mask pulled against your face, it's not working.
"regular masks" that you buy and put on or NIOSH N95 masks with a proper fit test to make sure you have the correct size and are wearing it correctly.
You can make a mask fit tighter with a mask brace or mask seal. https://making.engr.wisc.edu/mask-fitter/
"Razer points out that the system has been independently certified with a Bacterial Filtration Efficiency of over 99%, like an N95."
"Razer claims that Project Hazel is the world's smartest mask. It is a reusable N95 respirator"
"Razer announced today that its lit-like-a-gaming-PC N95 mask"
"I wore Razer’s Zephyr N95 mask"
American made N95, KN95, and ASTM Level 3 masks. See their mask testing database, click on each and see a video of their test:
You can find 20-30% off coupons for them online. I'm very happy with my purchases from them.
Easier to get than 3M, a respected brand like 3M, more comfortable than N95.
> A lawsuit filed by Minnesota against 3M, the company that first developed and sold PFOS and PFOA, the two best-known PFAS compounds, has revealed that the company knew that these chemicals were accumulating in people’s blood for more than 40 years. 3M researchers documented the chemicals in fish, just as the Michigan scientist did, but they did so back in the 1970s. That same decade, 3M scientists realized that the compounds they produced were toxic. The company even had evidence back then of the compounds’ effects on the immune system, studies of which are just now driving the lower levels put forward by the ATSDR, as well as several states and the European Union.
That's fine if you want to play it safe, but it's not fine if you're making a judgement about genuine capacity or supply.
3M masks are made in the USA. I have 500 right now and plan on keeping them even after the pandemic. Just in case.
But since a completely sealed N95 mask isn't the standard we need to reach, we only need to reach the level of medical mask which gives more than enough protection, a valved respirator is safe. That's exactly what the report states.
My guess, based on what we know about low-micron aerosol transmission, that anybody walking around with a valved respirator/surgical mask and infected with Omicron, is potentially infecting anyone unmasked around them.
But - with that said, I did learn from you that valved respirators aren't horrible - but I should look at someone wearing one in the same way I would look at someone with a surgical mask.
I'm also dubious as to whether N95 masks are doing as much as people think they are - breathability is key factor that needs to be considered - unless all of your inhalation and exhalation is passing through the mask, once again it's not doing/protecting what you think it is, despite how tightly fit it is, and the fact that on a NaCl 3 micron bench test it's rated at 99.9x% effective.