Dangerous, Fake Medical Masks Found in the Market
From the investigation, it was revealed that the respirator masks being sold were of low quality and had the potential to endanger the users.
Counterfeit respirator masks for health workers to treat Covid-19 patients have been found in Indonesia. Many medical masks found in the market are of low quality and do not pass the bacterial filtration test.
JAKARTA, KOMPAS — One of the main personal protective equipment for health workers in treating Covid-19 patients is a medical mask. However, investigative coverage conducted by Kompas found that some medical masks available in the market, including the respirator masks used by health workers when handling Covid-19 patients, were counterfeit.
The results of laboratory tests initiated by Kompas on various types of medical masks found in the market, especially imported masks, showed that the mask filtration against bacteria was below the required minimum standard.
The first case of fake respirator masks was revealed earlier this year when the Sulianti Saroso Infectious Disease Hospital (RSPI), Jakarta, received a donation of 3M brand N95 respirator masks from the public. The 3M brand N95 mask is a standard respirator mask in the United States. However, the 3M masks that were donated to the Sulianti Saroso hospital turned out to be fake. "After (the masks) were opened, all the parts of the mouth fell off," said the head of the hospital’s Infection Control and Prevention Committee, Titi Sundari.
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A total of eight boxes of fake 3M masks were found at the Sulianti Saroso hospital. 3M also confirmed that the masks were fake. The product serial numbers of the masks were different from those issued by 3M. Melati Kusumawardani of 3M Indonesia asked customers to call the 3M Indonesia hotline at 021-29974000 for official distributor information.
Respirator masks commonly purchased by health workers did not pass tests on a number of important parameters, such as bacterial filtration efficiency, differential pressure and particle filtration efficiency tests.
Kompas’ investigative team then traced the circulation of fake medical masks on online and offline markets, including a number of imported mask distributors and traders who claimed that their products could be used by health workers. From the investigation, it was revealed that the respirator masks being sold were of low quality and had the potential to endanger the users. Kompas even conducted tests at the Air Quality Laboratory of the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB). Respirator masks commonly purchased by health workers did not pass tests on a number of important parameters, such as bacterial filtration efficiency, differential pressure and particle filtration efficiency tests.
In fact, many Indonesian medical personnel who handle Covid-19 patients buy their own respirator masks. Many health facilities do not provide respirator masks for their health workers.
A survey conducted by Kompas’ Research and Development on 214 health workers in Banten province, Jakarta, West Java, Central Java, Yogyakarta, and East Java on March 13-23 2021 revealed that 52.6 percent of health workers bought their own masks from online shops. "Now, the masks are really cheap,
but I don’t know their brands. The price is only Rp 10,000 each. I got information from my office’s WhatsApp group chat, ”said a nurse at the Surabaya Haji Hospital, Fauzanin (47), who usually buys respirator masks from his colleagues.
Unfortunately, the quality of the medical masks bought by the health workers from online and offline markets have low quality, which can put them at risk when handling Covid-19 patients. Kompas had tested 50 pieces of medical masks from five different brands available in the market at the ITB Air Quality Laboratory. The test results indicated that none of the masks tested passed the differential pressure test or breathability test. The differential pressure for all masks is above the standard so that the users have the potential to suffer shortness of breath if they wear the masks for hours. The differential pressure is one of three test parameters to determine the quality of the medical mask.
The maximum standard of the differential pressure of the medical mask between 4 millimeters H2O per square centimeter (mmH2O / sq cm ) to 6 mmH2O / sq cm at all test levels. One of the mask brands purchased from the Pramuka market, East Jakarta, has a differential pressure of between 16.53 mmH2O / sq meter and 24.69 mmH2O / sq meter at all test levels, far higher than the maximum standard.
The high differential pressure level makes the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide unbalanced.
The differential pressure of the medical masks should meet the standard to ensure that the users can stand wearing a mask for up to eight hours without experiencing a shortness of breath. The high differential pressure level makes the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide unbalanced. "It will be quite risky because the users will eventually experience a shortness of breath and have to find the time to open the mask. They may suffer a shortness of breath because the air exchange is not good enough, which will make the users feel dizzy,” Helen Julian, a differential pressure researcher at the ITB Air Quality Laboratory, Helen Julian said at ITB on Wednesday (31/3/2021).
Some health workers acknowledged that they felt uncomfortable wearing KN95 or N95 masks because they felt stuffy. " I felt stuffy when wearing these masks," said Gita Melinda, a nurse at a clinic of the Indonesian Family Planning Association in Bandung.
A number of masks of different brands have a bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE) of between 81.7 percent and 82.7 percent at all testing levels. This figure is much lower than the minimum 95 percent as stated on the label on the masks. The lower the BFE number, the more potential for bacteria to infiltrate the masks.
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As for the parameter of the particle filtration efficiency (PFE), masks obtained from distributors of imported masks in Jakarta did not pass the test because the difference in measurement results was too wide between one masks and another. The Indonesian National Standard (SNI) for PFE is at least 95 percent (test level 1) and 98 percent (level 2 and 3).
Ideally, medical mask products must meet all test parameters. "If one type of mask fails in one parameter, even though it passes in another parameter, it should be rejected, because it no longer match its label, "said a researcher at the ITB Air Quality Laboratory, Haryo Satrio Tomo.
The masks tested at ITB were obtained from imported mask distributors, online and offline stores. At the Pramuka Market, traders sell a variety of respirator masks claimed to be intended for health workers.
Also found in the market were Alkindo\'s KN95 respirator masks that used the logo of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) and the serial production numbers issued by the Health Ministry. In this case, both BNPB and the Health Ministry do not allow their logos to be printed on the mask packaged.
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The circulation of fake and unqualified respirator masks is a cause for concern for health workers. "This is our concern because there were too many people who died because of Covid-19. The problem with the quality (of the masks) here relates to people\'s lives. I think a further investigation is needed, especially if there is a sample test of the fake masks, ” said the chairman of the Covid-19 Task Force of the Indonesian Medical Association (IDI), Prof. Dr. Zubairi Djoerban. (DVD/FAI/IRE/NDY)
This article was translated by Hendarsyah Tarmizi).