A consumer alert is being issued for Iowans to avoid certain types of face masks that are being sold using deceptive claims and which may not offer protection from COVID-19.
Lynn Hicks, a spokesman for the Iowa Attorney General’s office, says they’re asking stores to remove masks from shelves that are labeled as KN95 Stereo Protective Masks. “What that ‘KN’ indicates is that it has not met U.S. safety standards,” Hicks says. “It’s manufactured in China and despite the name, many of those masks do not offer 95% protection.”
The masks are advertised as “protective,” which Hicks says is misleading. The packaging also contains confusing and nonsensical content, such as “use funny melt-blown filter material,” and “children under three have low vital capacity and are not recommended.”
Some masks are priced at $12.99 for a pack of two, while other KN95 masks on Amazon sell for about $3 each. “We’ve gotten some complaints about price gouging and just to make sure people understand, the price gouging rule is still in effect during the public health emergency,” Hicks says. “If people see things that they think are out of line, they can certainly report it to our office and we will check it out.”
The masks were being sold in at least five stores, including Iowa-based Hy-Vee, which Hicks says has agreed to remove the masks from shelves. While most Iowans don’t need the N-95 level of mask, for those who do, this is an important purchase.
Hicks says, “If you’re a medical professional who really needs what’s known as an N-95 mask or if you are going to be around people who have COVID, then it could be dangerous.” He notes, the CDC does -not- recommend the general public wear N-95 respirator masks, as they’re considered critical supplies reserved for health care workers and other first responders.