The Chinese-made “N95” respiratory masks were advertised online as having been certified by U.S. safety regulators — an important claim amid the global coronavirus pandemic, as front-line workers scramble for life-saving protective equipment.
But the masks were fake. And following an investigation by Global News, the counterfeits were pulled last week from websites in India, Pakistan and a half-dozen other countries.
“Thank you for bringing such counterfeit items to our attention,” Kashif Ali, vice-president at the Toronto office of Midas Safety, said in response to questions about the masks from Global News.
The Valpro Ranger 821 and 821V masks were promoted on Midas Safety websites in eight countries, including China, as having been certified “N95” by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, they were counterfeits, falsely bearing an approval number assigned to American multinational 3M.
“To be approved, a respirator model must meet the minimum performance requirements,” CDC spokesman Scott Pauley said in response to questions from Global News. “This approval process ensures a minimum level of worker protection from airborne particulates, such as what health-care workers may be exposed to during the COVID-19 response.”
The counterfeit Valpro Ranger masks were advertised on Midas Safety country websites in China, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Oman and Saudi Arabia, as well as on the Valpro Safety website in the United Arab Emirates. However, Valpro also sells Ranger masks online which do not claim to be N95 certified masks.
A disclaimer on the websites now warns that “some counterfeit products breaching the Valpro registered trademark are being sold falsely, claiming to have been NIOSH approved.”
Meanwhile, a review by Global News of sales sites on the Chinese online retail giant Alibaba shows that the Valpro Ranger N95 masks have been advertised for sale in minimum lots of 100 per order from a sales company based in Henan, China.
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The Midas Safety country websites that had featured the Valpro Ranger N95 masks on their product pages said the company was managed from and “headquartered in Canada.” The contact information provided was in Toronto.
However, Ali stated that the Canadian company had no involvement in the counterfeit Valpro Ranger mask matter and had only passed on Global News’ questions to the corporate headquarters of Midas Safety Innovations Ltd. (MSIL), which owns the Valpro trademark.