COVID-19 : Counterfeit masks: what is their effectiveness and how to distinguish them from the originals

Since its mandatory use was imposed, the market for masks is booming. It does not matter if they are surgical, FFP2 or fabrics, the number of masks that are marketed at this time is overwhelming and, therefore, we must be especially careful with those that are false because they could not protect enough and would be exposing us to a contagion by coronavirus. But how do we differentiate them? The truth is that it is easier than it seems. Taking a look at the packaging and the masks themselves is enough to know if the product is fake or not. Here we give you all the keys.

FFP2 masks

As has been emphasized for several months – indeed for almost a year – all masks must pass a European Union certificate and, therefore, carry a legend that certifies them on the packaging. In the case of FFP2, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism indicates that they must comply with Regulation (EU) 2016/425, the regulation that regulates products designed and manufactured to protect a person when wearing the product. In fact, this type of mask is the most effective on the market, with 92%.

As indicated by the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU), European regulations require that FFP2 masks must visibly indicate the following terms:

Name or manufacturer’s mark.
Product identification number: one for each mask.
Mask type: FFP1, FFP2, FFP3.
The letters indicating its use: NR (non-reusable mask), R (reusable mask) or D (mask subjected to the dolomite obstruction test).
The standard applied: UNE-EN 149: 2001 + A1: 2010 or EN149: 2001 + AI: 2009.
CE symbol, followed by the number of the Body in charge of certifying the product.

Surgical masks

They are the most used since the beginning of the pandemic and, also, the cheapest on the market. They serve to protect oneself and are not reusable, with a duration of 4 hours of life. In addition, it is recommended that they be thrown away in case they get wet or damp, since they lose effectiveness. To recognize if they are not false we must take a look at their packaging, where the following information should appear:

The CE marking ensures that the product complies with the legislation. The reference to the UNE EN 14683 standard ensures compliance with a quality standard.
Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (EFB): indicate are type I or type II. The latter can also be resistant to splashes (blood and other biological fluids) if they are called IIR.