Substandard N95 masks being sold at premium price in market

Bokaro: Amidst Coronavirus epidemic, inferior quality duplicates N95 face mask or respirator flooded in the market, are being sold for Rs 250- 450 a piece in Bokaro.

Lookalike N95 respirator or masks are being supplied in the market, admitted health experts, distributors and shop owners.  N95 masks,  which are one of the most advanced antipollution and anti-contamination masks available in the country,  might be manufactured locally, which are inferior in quality, said Vinod a medical staff.

“The duplicate masks cannot filter 95 per cent of airborne particles like the N95s. We are selling them because people want to buy them. People feel some protection is better than nothing,” said Piyush, a distributor in Sector 4 at Bokaro.“Now we are out of stock, we have already placed a fresh order in May with a Delhi-based company, but yet to receive the consignment,” he added.

The original N95 mask can filter particles up to 0.3 microns in diameter, is itself “moderate protection” against the novel coronavirus that has a diameter of 0.12 micron, said a medical expert adding “Under the present circumstances it is the best bet.”

Lookalike N95 masks are also in huge demand not only in the urban areas but in rural pockets too since after the coronavirus cases were reported in the country. Against an earlier demand (during April) of 50-75 masks a day, it was 250-400 a day for the past 15 days as the inflow of migrants increased in the district, said Sandeep, another distributor in Chas.

“We are out of stock for the past four days. Fresh supply has not come since last month,” said Gaghander, another distributor in Chas.

The duplicate or inferior quality of N95 masks are not approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which tests and authorises medical equipment, said a district health department official.

“Must look for a NIOSH-approved label on the packaging or on the mask,” added the official.

Civil Surgeon A K Pathak said, the lookalike N95 mask which may have three layers (two synthetic and one foam) still cannot stop a healthy person from catching the viral infection. “The N95 too does not guarantee 100 per cent protection against virulent viruses,” he added.

While asking of inferior quality and overpricing sale of masks in the market Civil Surgeon said, Drug and Cosmetic department officials can keep a tab over the quality and overpricing sale of the N95 masks in the market.

Pathak advised people not to panic and maintain good personal hygiene instead. “Must wash hands often with soap, use hand sanitisers, avoid crowded places and keep a distance of at least one meter from others,” added Civil Surgeon.


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