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With U.S. hospitals still ordering alternative personal protective equipment manufactured in China due to ongoing shortage of U.S.-made “N95” masks, a research organization is sounding the alarms that upwards of 70% of the masks intended to filter out 95% of particles fail.
Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania-based ECRI, a nonprofit organization that advises the health care industry on product safety, tested 200 alternative masks known as “KN95” masks, which are not approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health but are allowable alternatives when facing mask shortages. Most if not all are made in China, according to the organization.
The analysis found that most “do not meet U.S. standards for effectiveness, raising the risk of contracting COVID-19 for care providers and patients at hospitals and other healthcare organizations.”
“Because of the dire situation, U.S. hospitals bought hundreds of thousands of masks produced in China over the past six months, and we’re finding that many aren’t safe and effective against the spread of COVID-19,” Marcus Schabacker, ECRI’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “Using masks that don’t meet U.S. standards puts patients and frontline healthcare workers at risk of infection. As ECRI research shows, we strongly recommend that healthcare providers going forward do more due diligence before purchasing masks that aren’t made or certified in America.”
Although the majority of imported KN95 masks do not meet the NIOSH N95 standard, ECRI researchers say the KN95s “can be used in lieu of surgical or procedure masks for activities that involve limited contact with bodily fluids” because the alternative masks are not intended for fluid repellency and they may provide superior respiratory protection.
ECRI said health care workers should use alternative masks “only as a last resort when treating known or suspected COVID-19 patients.”
More insurance and workers compensation news on the coronavirus crisis here.
With face coverings as common as nametags and uniforms among workers in essential businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, experts are raising concerns over whether such protective measures are risk-free.