U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers have seized nearly 15 million counterfeit face masks since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the agency reported Thursday.
Agents confiscated the unsafe personal protective equipment as part of an effort to prevent criminals from exploiting the public crisis for economic gain.
The agency also seized roughly 180,000 prohibited COVID-19 test kits and more than 38,000 prohibited chloroquine tablets typically used to treat malaria.
Chloroquine is considered safe for patients with malaria, but has not been shown to be an effective treatment for COVID-19.
Customs and Border Protection import personnel work closely with legitimate trademark holders to identify fake N95 and surgical masks, which may not meet U.S. health and safety standards.
Authentic N95 masks are critical for protecting frontline workers from aerosols and droplets that could contain the virus.
“What we’ve seen is there certainly is a market for these. All of us in the U.S. are really anxious for high-quality masks and test kits and medications,” CBP executive assistant commissioner Brenda Smith told CBS MoneyWatch. The “N95 is a really desirable mask right now and really likely to be counterfeited.”
When counterfeit goods are sold in the U.S., they also deprive legitimate sellers of revenue, Smith added.
“These are a danger not only to the consumers that may get fake or harmful goods, but they’re also frankly a problem for U.S. businesses,” she explained.
“A lot of businesses have shifted production to try to support getting protective equipment and medications and even vaccines for U.S. consumers, and when we buy counterfeit either knowingly or unknowingly, it harms those businesses that are trying to put a legitimate product out.”
Chicago border protection officers in September intercepted 500,000 counterfeit N95 respirators shipped from Shenzhen, China.
Officers sent 30 masks from the shipment to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testing site, which found that 10% of the tested respirators filtered fewer than 95% of airborne particles, meaning the masks weren’t up to snuff for use as protection from the novel coronavirus in hospitals and other frontline environments.
The contraband’s resale value was estimated to be worth more than $3 million.
(Read more at:- https://www.cbsnews.com/news/n95-masks-fake-seized/)