April 21 (UPI) -- The attorneys general from 19 states and the District of Columbia on Tuesday called on 3M to do more to fight price gouging on its N95 respirator masks, part of the critical equipment healthcare workers need to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter sent to CEO and board Chairman Michael Roman, the states's top law enforcement officials praised the work 3M has done to boost its production of the face masks. The officials, though, said the Saint Paul, Minn.-based manufacturer should do more to fight price gouging so health facilities, nurses and doctors can better access them.
The attorneys general said their offices have been "flooded" with complaints and "excessive prices" for the respirators.
"As you know, there have been critical shortages of N95 respirators and other [personal protection equipment] due to the increased use and demand worldwide as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic," the letter reads. "While 3M has committed to maintain the same prices for N95 respirators, others in the marketplace are charging unconscionable prices."
The letter urged 3M to publish its policies prohibiting price gouging and refrain from doing business with distributors who violate those policies. The attorneys general also asked the company to submit a database of its N95 inventory to government officials and make it transparent how the inventory is distributed.
N95 respirators are among the most critical PPE items in use by doctors and nurses during the COVID-19 crisis. They are specially designed to filter out most airborne particles and liquid. A shortage of the devices has left healthcare workers relying on less-protective surgical masks or even reusing N95 respirators while treating multiple patients.