Updated: May 13
Dear President Biden:
We write to you with a request for immediate help against unfair trade practices by foreign nations that threaten the viability of the U.S. domestic PPE mask manufacturing industry, as well as future U.S. pandemic preparedness efforts. Purchasing existing stockpiles from U.S. manufacturers and taking urgent regulatory action on procurement is needed for the continued health of our nation.
The American Mask Manufacturer’s Association (AMMA) represents the 26 small business Mask Manufacturers that answered America’s call for emergency PPE during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. While none of our members had made masks before this crisis, we refused to stand idly by while our nation's doctors, nurses, and neighbors were dying without the proper PPE that China hoarded from the rest of the world.
We responded in the most American way possible, as entrepreneurs and as builders. With no federal funding, our 26 member companies sprang into action—and in less than a year, created the manufacturing capacity for 3.69 billion surgical masks and 1.06 billion N95-style respirators. At the same time, we created 7,823 good-paying jobs.
Being entrepreneurs, we built our business models on pre-pandemic mask-market prices, creating companies that would serve our country long after the current crisis. With recent advances in robotics and automation, we proved our ability to make far higher quality and safer masks than China. These are masks that the U.S. Government and private healthcare organizations would prefer to purchase if prices were comparable.
Fearing America’s manufacturing independence, China has changed the rules and is effectively dumping masks on the U.S. market at well below actual costs. This has made it impossible for our U.S. manufacturers to compete—and as a result, 260 million American-made masks sit in U.S. warehouses unused today.
If this remains unchanged, 54% of our production will go offline in 60 days and 84.6% in less than a year.
There are $0.03 - $0.06 of raw materials in every surgical mask produced--that price is the same everywhere in the world. Yet somehow, we are seeing Chinese masks sold for less than $0.01 here in the United States.
And it’s not just masks. The entire supply chain is at risk.
For example, three of our members make their own meltblown, the key filtration material in N95 and Surgical masks that makes them effective. Meltblown is also the leading reason for production shortages and astronomical prices at the peak of the pandemic. Berry-Amendment compliant meltblown costs between $7-$12 per pound, but our members can make it for a cost of $3-$4 per pound. China is selling N95-quality meltblown at $1.22 per pound—12% cheaper than the cost of raw materials. Because of this, one of our members has stopped producing meltblown altogether. Other U.S. nonwoven manufacturers, like Cummins Filtration, are turning off their meltblown lines this month.
It is even more concerning to find that many of these cheaply sold Chinese products fail to meet American standards.
The National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL), a division of the CDC, recently completed a series of tests on KN95’s imported into the United States. Of 326 total masks tested, NPPTL found that 31.5%, or 103 masks, failed to meet the Chinese KN95 standard (GB 2626-2019) and the NIOSH standard (42 CFR Part 84) of 95% particulate filtration protection.
Additionally, the Emergency Care Research Institute (ERCI) found that 70% of Chinese KN95 masks tested failed to meet minimum standards, concluding that “U.S. hospitals bought hundreds of thousands of masks produced in China [that] aren’t safe and effective against the spread of COVID-19.”
As a result, U.S. state and national government and private healthcare systems have filled their warehouses with cheap, ineffective Chinese products that put our citizens at risk.
If China is allowed to continue dumping masks for a fraction of the costs of materials, we will be more dependent on China for PPE than before the pandemic—putting our healthcare workers at risk for current and future pandemics. These unfair trade practices threaten the viability of our industry and the welfare of every single American.
This is not only a matter of national security but of national pride. American industry responded to this crisis—please help us fight China’s unfair trade practices that are destroying what we have striven so hard to build.
In support of our shared interests, we ask that you strongly consider the following actions:
Immediately remove the FDA’s EUA for non-U.S. based manufacturers, as we have demonstrated that there is ample U.S. production and supply.
Immediately require the federal government, and anyone receiving federal dollars for PPE reimbursement, to buy Berry-Amendment Compliant masks.
Review the Strategic National Stockpile. Specifically, remove masks that fail to meet American standards and require private industry and state and local governments to do the same.
A law or regulatory action requiring hospitals and organization that accept federal funds to purchase 40% of their PPE from domestic manufacturers by 2023. This will bring investment to every level of our industry and allow the market to do its job.
With this in mind, we ask you to consider purchasing the more than 260 million masks sitting in our warehouses to rebuild the Strategic National Stockpile with quality, American-made masks. This one action will allow many of our producers to survive long enough for your administration to act.
Our entire membership is made up of diverse women and men who believe strongly in the free market, and do not want a government handout. We did not ask for federal funds to build our factories here in America, and we are not asking for a bailout now. If not for unfair and potentially illegal trade practices, all our businesses would be thriving today. That said, if the government and your administration no longer need our factories to produce PPE, we would still mark the past 12 months as a success and triumph of American spirit in a time of need.
We know your administration is working hard to ensure the long-term survival of American PPE producers, and for that we are grateful. However, the tactics being employed against us by foreign manufacturers are immediate threats to our ability to stay in business. We have already had to lay off significant numbers of our workforce and the majority of production facilities will be forced to permanently shutter mask manufacturing in less than 60 days.
If America needs our production capabilities to protect the country in the future, we need swift and decisive action that only you can provide.
Thank you, Mr. President, and your Administration, for your strong leadership to protect the American public from this deadly virus. Through partnership and collaboration, we can end this pandemic and protect against the next.
Sincerely, Lloyd Armbrust President, AMMA Founder, Armbrust Inc. Luis Arguello, President, Demetech Dan Izhaky, President, United Safety Technology Brian Wolin, CEO, Protective Health Gear Howard Sherman, CEO, Premier Guard USA
Glenn Ferreri, President, Premier Guard USA Brian Goldmeier, Partner, Made In America PPE
Chet Desai, Partner, Made In America PPE Amir Tafreshi, Founder & CEO, Lutema USA
Eddie Phanichkul, Founder & CMO, Lutema USA Paul Hickey, President & Co-Founder, PureVita Lee Mornan, VP of Sales & Marketing, Altor Safety Todd Raines, President, NFI Masks LLC Jason Greene, Owner, Medicair Inc.
Avi Polischuk, Owner, Medicair Inc. Jeremy A. Briggs, Esq., President, Luosh USA
Landon Morales, President, Armbrust Inc. Brent Dillie, Chairman, AMMA, Managing Partner, Premium-PPE Clayton Geye, CEO , Indiana Face Mask
James Wyner, CEO Shawmut Corporation Matt Brandman, CEO, American Surgical Mask Kahoru Watanabe, Co-Founder, American Surgical Mask Tim Ziegenfus, CEO, ATI Corporation of North America
Richard Gehricke, COO, ATI Corporation of North America Connor Knapp, Founder, NYPPE LLC Thomas Allen Jr., COO, NYPPE LLC Charles Park, PZero Innovations Inc. Ryan Gehricke, COO, Carolina Facemask and PPE Rodney McAbery, Vice President, Guardsman Global Adam Harmon, President, ALG Health Dakota Hendrickson, Founder, Filti
George Tsatsos, VP of Sales, Filti Kan Chou, President of CW Horizon LLC Chris Dement, Co-Founder, Premium-PPE Daniel C. Murphy, CEO, DediCare Medical Solutions, LLC
cc: Jeffrey Zients, Coordinator and Counselor to the President, COVID-19 Pandemic Response Timothy Manning, Supply Coordinator, White House COVID-19 Response Celeste Drake, Made in America Director, Office of Management and Budget
Bradsher, Keith, and Liz Alderman. The World Needs Masks. China Makes Them, but Has Been Hoarding Them. New York Times, 2020. NY Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/13/business/masks-china-coronavirus.html.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NPPTL Respirator Assessments to Support the COVID-19 Response. CDC, 2021. CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/respirators/testing/NonNIOSHresults.html.
ECRI. “Up to 70% of Chinese KN95 Masks Tested by ECRI Don’t Meet Minimum Standards.” ERCI.org, 2020, https://www.ecri.org/press/up-to-70-of-chinese-kn95-masks-tested-by-ecri-dont-meet-min imum-standards. Accessed 22 September 2020.
Kates, Graham. N95 mask shortage comes down to this key material: "The supply chain has gotten nuts". CBS News, 2020. CBS News, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/n95-mask-shortage-melt-blown-filters/.