CONNECTICUT (WTNH) — Counterfeit masks have infiltrated the U.S. market, online and in stores as the demand for PPE has outstripped supply.

Imagine this: You were out on the town and you were going out to get a bite at a restaurant, and you pull out your “medical” mask to put it on. So, is it going to work? It’s supposed to work better than the cloth ones; however, Dr. Richard Martinello of Yale Medicine said there are a lot of counterfeit masks in the marketplace.

Dr. Martinello said it’s like the Wild Wild West out there when buying one. This month, customs officers at Kennedy International Airport seized more than 100,000 counterfeit masks from Hong Kong bearing the “3M” label. They were not 3M, but inferior masks.

Doctors said counterfeit masks are such a problem online, they can fool some of the most trusted websites. The best way to tell if it’s counterfeit is to compare it to a real mask you get at the doctor’s office. Many times, a counterfeit mask will only be made of one layer of material instead of two or three.

“Filtration material that is not up to standard, oftentimes, it’s much thinner than what it should be,” said Dr. Richard Martinello, Yale Medicine. “The seams and the material is just not well constructed and potentially fall apart.”

Another way you can tell if it’s counterfeit is when you put it on, it will have a funky smell to it. Doctors said if it has any type of odor to it that is not normal or it doesn’t smell like other masks you have worn, it’s a pretty good chance that it was made in a counterfeit shop.

“Some of those fabrics can have chemicals on them to make them appear to be better at least initially when they are new, and some of these chemicals can potentially irritate people’s skin when they put them on.”

Hospitals screen every shipment of PPE before they distribute it, and they are finding counterfeit masks in the inventory. 

“Our purchasing group over the last year has seen that what we have purchased is certainly not what we thought we were going to get,” Dr. Martinello.