We have all seen the low cost import masks available in LA and NY for $0.04 or less. Sure the price is attractive, but do you know what you are buying? In reality the pricing is the only thing that is good about most of these products.
How can Chinese manufacturers sell at such a low cost? PPE products, and face masks in general, are sold at little to no profit as the manufacturers are subsidized directly from the Chinese government. Was pricing this low pre-Covid? In most cases the answer is NO. This pricing is a concerted effort to hurt American manufacturers and increase our dependence on cheap Chinese products.
PPE supply was a concern before Covid and this pandemic has shown the United States the disastrous effects when we rely too heavily on importing products. Less than 30% of the domestic face mask needs before the pandemic was made in the US. American manufacturers have answered the call by increasing PPE output and re-tooling to enter the market.
If we keep falling for these cheap prices, domestically manufactured production will decrease and our dependence on importing sub-par products will increase before our government can apply the planned tariffs to level the playing field.
Below are links on various concerns which unchecked allow for dirt cheap pricing, but also quality you can't count on.
- Low labor rates - the minimum wage varies from $1.84 to $3.67/hour across China which is higher than most of the countries in Asia.
- Product consistency - regardless of the product purchased from China it is well known that each and every lot needs to be inspected due to a much larger fail rate compared to US made products. In our own quality inspections we have found Chinese face mask with an ear loop fail rate as high as 55%, but the low was still 12%.
- Ongoing quality control issues - while China has the most ISO registered companies in the world the majority of manufacturing companies do not have this in place and is verifiable. A company's registration needs to be verified after receipt of their certification as certificates have proven to be fraudulent on PPE from many countries in Asia.
- Unacceptable working conditions - 60% of Chinese PPE manufacturing facilities have serious hygiene issues. China has consistently ranked in top 10 worst countries for workers rights. Unfortunately along with this, plant air quality does not meet the recommended ISO level and products are at high risk for contamination.
- Fraudulent product - various healthcare networks and government agencies have acknowledged scams on import products that have cost them billions. The products that have arrived have been so bad that some complete orders have been thrown out instead of being used.
- Non-conforming labeling - the FDA has found numerous mask brands on the market coming to the US with labeling containing claims that have not been validated. Products have been found to promote a surgical grade that are not FDA approved, listing efficiency levels without verification and other virus related claims.