Mask manufacturing in the United States is jeopardised as a result of cheap Chinese imports

Mask manufacturing in the United States is jeopardised as a result of cheap Chinese imports
A worker at Rough Linen sews fabric masks in San Rafael, Calif., on April 6, 2020. Rough Linen, a maker of hand crafted linen bedding, has changed its production line and is now making fabric masks that are being donated to local hospitals and healthcare workers who are on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

According to a Nikkei Asia report, evidence shows that cheap Chinese masks have cornered domestic US manufacturers. As a result, industry professionals are now urging the Biden administration to take immediate action to ensure national security self-sufficiency.

The American Mask Manufacturers Association (AMMA) highlighted the challenges faced by US mask manufacturers in an updated 1,458-word letter to President Joe Biden on May 13. It was revealed that China has been consistently dumping its products on the US market at prices far below their actual cost.

While raw materials cost $0.03–0.06 for each surgical mask produced—a cost that is the same everywhere in the world—Chinese masks are sold for less than $0.01 in the United States, according to the letter. As a result, approximately 260 million American-made masks are unsold and stockpiled in warehouses. At the same time, 2,647 jobs have been lost in the United States’ manufacturing sector.

One example is the company Premium-PPE, whose workforce has shrunk from 280 to around 50, and whose monthly production has dropped nearly 90% from last year’s peak.

According to Nikkei Asia, Brent Dillie, the chief revenue officer of Premium-PPE, “selling the mask for less than a penny is not possible.”

Lloyd Armbrust, founder and CEO of Armbrust American, told NPR that the AMMA’s 28 members would cease operations within the next 60 to 90 days. He claims that five of them have already ceased production.

“When they go out of business, we don’t just turn off the lights and put these machines away. We dispose of them in a landfill. “That capacity that we built has vanished,” Armbrust explained.

Worryingly, the AMMA stated that a portion of Chinese imports do not meet American health and safety standards.

According to a NIOSH study, 31.5 percent, or 103 of 326 masks tested by the National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL), failed to meet the Chinese KN95 standard (GB 2626-2019) and the NIOSH standard (42 CFR Part 84) of 95 percent particulate filtration protection.

Furthermore, according to the Emergency Care Research Institute, 70% of Chinese KN95 masks tested failed to meet minimum standards (ERCI). The institute concluded that “hundreds of thousands of masks manufactured in China [were] not safe and effective against the spread of COVID-19.”

In addition, the open letter warned that China’s unfair trade practices will “threaten the viability of our industry and the welfare of every single American,” and that cheap Chinese products flooding the US market will put “our healthcare workers at risk for current and future pandemics” if the situation is viewed through the lens of national security.

As a result, the association formally requested that the Biden administration immediately withdraw the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization for non-U.S.-based manufacturers; immediately require the federal government and anyone receiving federal funds for PPE reimbursement to purchase Berry-Amendment Compliant masks, i.e., items manufactured in the United States; and review the Strategic National Stockpile.


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