Health and safety equipment like 3M 8210 Particulate Respirators have become a popular target for counterfeiters, particularly those in China. Police recently confiscated about 900,000 counterfeit 3M masks that may not comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) standards. These fake masks might not do their job in filtering harmful airborne particles to protect against air hazards that can cause serious conditions like occupational respiratory disease. People who work in construction, for example, are frequently exposed to substances such as respirable crystalline silica, a substance the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has stated can increase the risk of developing silicosis, lung cancer and kidney disease.

Unauthorized retailers often knock off the advertising and labeling of reputable companies to sell products that are marketed as complying with certifications and safety standards when the counterfeit goods have not gone through the stringent testing and manufacturing standards required to achieve the required certifications. In addition to harming consumers, counterfeit health and safety products can harm a brand’s reputation as a provider of safe and reliable products.

Like with many products, obtaining intellectual property rights is one avenue for deterring and stopping counterfeiters. For manufacturers of health and safety equipment, another effective tool is working with regulatory and safety certification agencies to raise awareness of counterfeit products and encourage consumers to check product certifications and look for authorized sellers and distributors when purchasing products. For example, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has a certified equipment list of approved products like particulate respirators and provides bulletins when counterfeits have been identified.