Washington hospitals find counterfeits in N95 mask supplies

Dozens of Washington state hospitals learned that N95 respirator masks believed to be purchased from 3M Company are counterfeits that were not manufactured by the company.

The Washington State Hospital Association on Friday alerted the state’s hospitals about a notification from 3M that some masks were knockoffs, The Seattle Times reported.

The association asked the state’s 115 hospitals to sort through mask supplies and pull potentially affected equipment from their supplies.

Several hospitals sent masks to Minnesota-based 3M for testing and the company confirmed Saturday that some were counterfeit, the hospital association said.

Association officials said they were unsure how 3M discovered the fraud.

RELATED: Local brother and sister create Facebook group to help thousands find COVID-19 vaccines

It was unclear where the masks originated or how many are fakes because hospitals around the state are still submitting samples for testing.

Hospital association President and CEO Cassie Sauer estimated Washington’s hospitals spent $5 million to $8 million on counterfeit masks.

The issue affects the supply of between hundreds of thousands and more than a million N95 masks, she said.

"We are having hospitals go through all their masks and look for what they can find," Sauer said.

It is unclear whether the counterfeit masks are less safe than those manufactured by 3M, Sauer said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.