CHICAGO (CBS) — More than half a million fake masks were headed to New Jersey when United States Border Patrol and Protection caught them in Illinois. If the counterfeits made it to their destination the wearers probably wouldn’t know the masks weren’t fully protecting them.
CBS 2 is Working for Chicago and finding companies working to protect you during this pandemic, so the Morning Insiders went inside northwest suburban manufacturer MOSS to see what makes American made masks more trustworthy.
The average person would never know the hours put in to the split second processes that make the masks. The naked eye would also never see that within each tiny part is a huge focus on safety.
“That all sounds very simple, but we’ve worked very hard,” said Sarah Browning, MOSS Executive Vice President and COO. “They all sort of have a purpose. The middle layer is the filtration layer,”
Mask making is a new territory for Sarah Browning and her company. Employees at the Franklin Park manufacturing facility are normally crafting products for huge brands and trade shows.
Then the pandemic hit.
“Our first concern was our employees and how can we keep as many people employed as possible during this time,” she said.
They pivoted to medicine in a pivotal time.
“There’s a problem in our market right now where people are having a hard time getting masks so they’re safe,” she said.
Just last week $3 million worth of N95 masks came into O’Hare International Airport from China. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol got suspicious of all these safety promises. It turns out the respirators were fakes.
“Only a lab testing can tell you if an N95 is real,”said Jagdish Khubchandani, public health professor at New Mexico University.
Khubchandani says it is not easy to catch a counterfeit, but he does have some tricks.
“If you see too many claims about free shipping, legitimate, genuine, 100%, and some of them may also say FDA approved. The FDA does not approve N95 masks,” he said.
Instead the FDA clears them.
That is Heidi Katherine’s current mission as at MOSS.
“They are going to test the filtration of bacteria, whether or not it resists fluid, how much air gets through,” said the senior vice president of global design and development.
They say high American standards make their surgical masks superior to overseas competitors.
“We’re also seeing that there are particles that are released in the mask that are not safe for people, so you know the biocompatibility testing that we have to do in the USA is not happening there,” she said.
It means careful attention is paid even down to packaging.
“We’ve secured our supply chain. We’re confident in our mask, and now we can scale,” Browning said.
Four machines to pump out five million U.S. made masks a week will be arriving soon at MOSS, and that means new jobs. About 50 positions will be up for grabs.
MOSS sells commercially and ships in bulk to organizations like health and medical resellers, institutions, and government bodies.