Where to Buy Surgical Face Masks?
The spread of the more transmissible B117 COVID-19 variant across Europe and now the United States has resulted in some countries to take on stricter mask measures. Both France and Germany have now mandated that medical face masks be required to be used in all public settings to help slow the spread.
However the CDC is still advising the public to avoid buying disposable masks intended for medical professionals. It is important to understand the differences between most disposable face masks and medical grade surgical masks. We will provide you an overview of how to decide where to buy your surgical masks and what to be on the lookout for.
Why You Shouldn’t Buy Masks From Amazon
Amazon is the biggest e-commerce player in the United States. At first glance, it makes sense for most consumers to turn to Amazon to buy disposable face masks and other PPE items. However there are a lot of issues when buying face masks on Amazon.
Unknown to most Amazon buyers, most products purchased on Amazon are sold by third party sellers utilizing the Amazon platform. As of 2020, over 50% of Amazon sales are actually done via third party sellers. Amazon charges these third-party merchants a referral fee for each sale which is a fixed percentage of the sale price and shipping and fulfillment fees if Amazon handles the packaging and delivery of the order.
With the lack of reliable supply for the general public, these third-party merchants quickly scrambled to fill the void by importing a variety of disposable face masks and selling them on Amazon. While these masks seem similar to the ones doctors and medical professionals are using, they are not the same.
If you look carefully, most of the masks on Amazon are labeled as dust masks, disposable face masks and NOT surgical face masks. This allows manufacturers to bypass 510k FDA certification. If the company wants to sell a disposable face mask labeled as a surgical face mask, you must go through FDA 510k certification. Most new manufacturers and sellers are getting into the space are focused on speed to market and not medical efficacy.
Note: These masks look the same as surgical masks but medical professionals always make sure to buy masks labeled as surgical face masks.
In addition to the surgical mask certification, there is also additional certification surgical masks can go through to get ASTM rated. These ratings test surgical face masks for the performance and level of fluid resistance and particle filtration. The rating scale runs between Level 1 - Level 3, with Level 1 providing the least amount of protection and Level 3 providing the highest level of protection.
How The Medical Supply Chain Works
Most Americans don’t have access to high quality face masks. Before COVID, surgical face masks and other PPE were sold only to medical professionals. These people buy all of their supplies through medical distributors who in turn have relationships with the PPE manufacturers. When COVID hit, medical distributors were having trouble obtaining inventory from manufacturers which resulted in medical professionals struggling to get supplies (see early 2020). Right now the industry has stabilized and most medical professionals can get supplies on allocation.
This still leaves the average American with the problem of having access to quality PPE. The best way to get access to quality supplies is to buy from medical and dental distributors who are open to the public. There is an increasing number of smaller dental and medical suppliers operating on the web and selling to the public. Make sure to take a look at these suppliers to see if they are offering brand name products and for the proper ratings and certifications. While there is still a risk in buying from these unknown stores, it’s probably a better shot than buying something off Amazon.
How About KN95 Disposable Masks?
The lack of steady, dependable inventory from medical supply manufacturers left the FDA to issue an Emergency Use Authorization. This allowed the import on the masks certified by other countries in lieu of N series respirators into the US. This allowed Chinese manufacturers to import these KN95 masks and sell them to US consumers.
However independent testing of over 200 mask models from 15 different manufacturers showed a majority of these KN95 masks did not provide the level of protection they promised.
It is now recommended that anyone looking for the necessary protection of an N95 respirator mask to stick with trusted N95 masks and not replace them with a KN95 mask.
High quality disposable surgical face masks are hard to find but it is possible. We at Primo Dental Products are focused on offering a wide variety of products including disposable surgical masks. We ensure that all of our products offered on the website have met our high standards. We only sell products on the website that we would gladly offer our normal dental customers. Take a look at the thousands of 5 star reviews across our range of PPE products on the site from our thousands of satisfied customers. We hope that you give Primo Dental Products a look and we look forward to serving all of your personal protective equipment (PPE) needs.