Suburban company warns some masks may give health care workers 'false sense of security'

ROMEOVILLE (WLS) -- As states and businesses find themselves in a bidding war for protective masks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning that some coming from overseas may not meet the standards to protect health care workers on the frontlines.

A suburban business owner is echoing that warning after doing his own testing of masks.

"It is really scary that these might get onto the faces of doctors and give them a false sense of security," said Greg Cohen, CEO of Magid Glove & Safety.

The Romeoville-based company imports and distributes personal protective equipment in large quantities. It's joining the CDC in sounding the alarm about respirators that may not offer the quality that is necessary to protect workers on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Just imagine the impact that could have, being in hospitals across America," Cohen said.

He said the masks are being shipped into the U.S. from unproven sources, which are not skilled in making PPE.

"Our historical proven suppliers have not been able to sell us any additional inventory. Anything that we are trying to get has been with new unproven suppliers, which is why it is so critical that we are truly testing all of these," Cohen said.

N95 masks must be approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. NIOSH-approved masks block over 90% of airborne particles that may carry the novel coronavirus.

KN95 masks, which are produced in China, were just authorized by the federal government for use by first responders, but only if they meet standards.

"They all look very similar and even when you put them on, they feel similar," Cohen said. "It is really hard to tell that something does not fit properly."

Cohen's team tests sample masks from companies before they consider buying them for domestic distribution.

"We have one example where we tested it and it was almost no different than wearing a bandana on your face, and that one company was ready to sell us 300,000 masks that day," he said.

First, they check the material, then the team makes sure the seal on the masks fits tightly to the face and neck.

"The big concern on these is that this fit testing is not being done and not providing the proper seal and putting people at risk," Cohen said.

Of 10 Chinese masks tested, eight failed and two passed.

Magid believes the companies stepping in to fill the need for masks are trying to help.

"Everyone has the best intentions so people are able to get legitimate material and they are trying to put it together to help the world by making more masks but without understanding the nuances of doing it properly, they are actually putting people at risk without even realizing it," Cohen said.

The CDC is reminding purchasers to verify the brand on the NIOSH list of manufacturers before handing the masks out to those on the frontlines.

"Get them evaluated to make sure they are legitimate," Cohen added.

Magid is offering to do the testing for free.

"Would be happy to do that for them," Cohen said.

For more information on the company's free testing, visit Magid's website here.
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