Millions of free N95 masks from the federal government are now available at thousands of pharmacies and health centers across the United States. This is a part of the Biden administration’s efforts to protect Americans from the highly transmissible omicron variant of COVID-19.
These N95 masks, which are approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), come from the government's strategic national stockpile. The stockpile has more than 750 million of the higher-quality masks on hand, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The federal agency said 400 million of the N95s are being made available for the free mask program which started shipments to pharmacies and health centers in late January.
Since the program was announced, several VERIFY viewers have texted our team asking where these free masks were made.
Are the free N95 masks from the federal government manufactured in the United States?
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR)
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- The Berry Amendment, International Trade Administration
- The Buy American Act, U.S. Government Accountability Office
- Anne Miller, executive director of Project N95
Yes, the free N95 masks from the federal government are manufactured in the United States.
WHAT WE FOUND
All of the free N95 masks the federal government is sending to pharmacies and health centers from its stockpile were manufactured in the U.S., a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spokesperson told VERIFY.
“All NIOSH-approved N95 respirators deploying from the Strategic National Stockpile as part of the effort to provide Americans with free, higher-quality masks are produced in the United States,” the HHS spokesperson said.
The masks in the stockpile adhere to the Buy American Act, which requires the federal government to buy American-made goods wherever possible, according to an SNS spokesperson. The law calls those goods “domestic end products.”
The Buy American Act uses a two-part test to determine if a product is a “domestic end product.”
- The article must be manufactured in the United States; and
- Unless your product is made of mostly iron, steel or a combination of both, the cost of domestic components must exceed 55 percent of the cost of all the components.
Legal experts told VERIFY this means a product that is purchased by the government under the Buy American Act could have components that were made in other countries, but those pieces have to undergo a significant manufacturing process in the U.S. to qualify.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists the mask manufacturers included in the program on its website. The manufacturers include 3M, Honeywell, Moldex and Dräger. VERIFY reached out to all four manufacturers to confirm that their masks are made in the U.S.
In an email to VERIFY, 3M said it makes its N95 masks in the U.S., with two plants in South Dakota and Nebraska, and a global fit lab in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
“3M has supplied the federal and state governments with hundreds of millions of N95s that are in stockpiles for this purpose, and we will replenish them as needed,” the company said.
A Moldex spokesperson told VERIFY in a statement that the only component of its masks that is not sourced domestically is the rubber strap. However, the spokesperson explained the strap does meet the requirements of the Berry Amendment, which applies domestic-source requirements to certain food, clothing, fabrics, specialty metals, and hand or measuring tools when purchased with Department of Defense (DoD) appropriated funds.
Dräger confirmed its mask was also made in the U.S. Both of Honeywell’s masks were also manufactured in the U.S., according to a company spokesperson and the SNS.
Anne Miller serves as the executive director of Project N95, a national, nonprofit COVID-19 critical equipment clearinghouse. She told VERIFY domestic mask manufacturers started popping up across the country in response to the N95 mask shortage at the beginning of the pandemic.
“Back in March 2020, we were told to conserve and not to wear N95 respirators because healthcare workers needed them, and healthcare workers themselves were having to recycle them,” said Miller. “What happened was that the American manufacturing community really sprang to life and spun up manufacturing operations of NIOSH-rated respirators, which is a nontrivial thing to accomplish. I mean, it takes months to get your approval as a NIOSH-rated maker.”
Editor's note: This article was updated to add more information about how each mask in the Strategic National Stockpile was manufactured in the U.S.