So you bought a respirator and you want to check from the manufacturer that it is authentic. What do you do?
All respirators have a lot number or a serial number that comes with the package. The problem is that they are largely useless if a counterfeiter copies an existing lot or serial number. Let me share with you the various ways that manufacturers have created ways to help you from the best to the worst (if I am incorrect, then please contact me to update this article).
3M has been on the frontline of fighting counterfeits since the pandemic. If you purchase 3M respirators in the USA, then you can use their 3M SafeGuard Validation website.
All of their boxes have a 10-digit secure code and a 6-digit lot code that can be entered to check its authenticity. The limitation is listed on the website as it does NOT cover all of the 3M products.
However, I love what 3M China did to use their WeChat account (3M乐享生活) to allow consumers to verify their KN95 respirators. Each of their respirators has a scratch off label that exposes a QR code that you scan using your phone. The extra layer of security is that you can ONLY scan that code once since the goal is to make the QR code be a one-time use code that counterfeiters cannot reuse. The idea and execution are wonderful. One problem that a non-Chinese user may encounter is the inability to understand the user interface since it is only in Chinese.
Many people think that I dislike Shanghai Dasheng Health as I have criticized their counterfeit products and their manufacturing practices in previous posts. I think that their saving grace is that they have been listing photos of counterfeit company seals or brand image.
While this is slightly helpful, I doubt that a counterfeiter is still using one of these seals or authorization letters.
The same can be said about Makrite, which has been another target of large-scale counterfeiting. They have started a blog about exposing the counterfeit supplier or distributors that they encounter in their blog.
However, this does not proactively attack the problem at hand.
Kimberly-Clark Corporation is a major producer of N95 used in hospitals. They don’t offer any convenient way to check your respirator regarding its authenticity. Perhaps the reason is that Kimberly-Clark respirators are NOT a common target of counterfeits. However, they offer a list of authorized distributors in their product catalog. Their logic is that if you buy from their authorized distributor, then you have an authentic respirator.
Honeywell is another international producer of N95 and KN95. Honeywell’s solution so far has been to write a blog about how to identify counterfeit N95.
Their saving grace is that they give you a complete list of their authorized distributors.
Moldex is another common N95 producer in the USA. They also have a list of the authorized distributors on their website.
Having a list of the authorized distributors is helpful, but most consumers are unable to purchase in bulk from many of these distributors. Still, there is NO way to verify your product’s authenticity. I am disappointed by these companies’ failure to adopt a solution like 3M in letting the end-user feel secure in knowing that they have an authentic respirator.
As the pandemic rages on for over a year, the threat of counterfeit PPE is continuing. Companies have gotten smarter with newer technologies to combat fake PPE. In July of 2020, we reached out to many major companies in China to institute a blockchain solution to the PPE being produced in China. As of now, NONE of the PPE producing factories in China has agreed to sign up for a blockchain solution to this counterfeit PPE crisis. Short of blockchain authentication, we remain at the mercy of PPE companies and border agents to combat counterfeit PPE.