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Environmental Health & Safety

Is Your N-95 Genuine?

Designer clothing, perfumes, video disks—there are many counterfeit products on the market, but counterfeit respiratory protection? Unfortunately, it’s out there.

All respiratory protection used in health care (and in other workplace settings) must be approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and carry the NIOSH approval markings. Approvals on some respirators, however, are being faked.

A recent publication from NIOSH, Respirator Awareness: Your Health May Depend On It, explains how health care workers can verify that a respirator has received the agency's approval:

NIOSH-approved respirators have approval markings on the face piece or straps, according to the document. However, the agency warns that counterfeit respirators may contain fake approval markings. If the respirator does not appear on NIOSH's list of approved respirators or it has no testing and certification approval number (beginning with "TC") printed on the product, packaging, or instructions, then it likely is not NIOSH-approved.

The publication also notes that NIOSH approval applies to the originally tested respirator, not to those that have been altered or modified, as even minor changes could affect the fit or function; that includes changes by manufacturer or user. You may not be aware that changes you make to your respirator, such as decorating or drawing on it, also void the NIOSH approval.

Counterfeit approval markings may be found on respirators that have not been through the rigorous NIOSH approval process as well as on respirators that have had their approval revoked due to unauthorized changes made to the product by the manufacturer.

To ensure your respiratory protection is NIOSH-approved, check the TC number against the NIOSH approved respirator list at:

 or call NIOSH at (412) 386-4000.

A defective respirator can cause serious illness or injury; be sure yours is the real deal.

The Occupational Safety Unit reminds you that all respiratory protection use at U of R must be in full compliance with Federal OSHA regulations and the University’s Respiratory Protection Program (, which requires that all respirators used at U of R be NIOSH approved. All required respirator users must also be medically cleared, trained, and fit tested annually for each make and model respirator they use.

Contact EH&S at (585) 275-3241 or e-mail EH&S Questions.

This page last updated 10/31/2013. Disclaimer.