Friday, July 31, 2020

Is your face mask safe for you and your family?

It is safe to say that the global pandemic has turned our world upside down and changed the notion of what was considered normal. Not only health, its impact can also be seen on various businesses tools. 

While the pandemic has caused losses for several industries, it has also given rise to newer opportunities. Makers of masks, PPE kits, sanitizing and disinfecting solutions are among the few products that have gained the spotlight. This has created an opening for small and mid-size companies to grow and for large companies to diversify. While this is a wonderful opportunity, it has also given rise to a rat race for others in the health and hygiene space and various companies producing masks are spreading misinformation about the materials and technologies they are using which can be toxic or carcinogenic in nature and can lead to serious health concerns in the long run.


  1. Is the mask certified or compliant with any applicable regulatory standard? 
  2. How credible is the testing protocol against SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 and the reports from independent testing agencies / laboratories, and what modifications have been made to the testing protocol? - ISO 18184 is the internationally recognized standard to determine the antiviral activity of textile products. 
  3. What is the durability of the antiviral performance – how long can it be used for with such performance, how many washes can it sustain, how long does the performance last from date of manufacturing and/or opening the package?  - The ISO 18184 protocol requires that the mask be washed 10 times before testing – has that been complied with? 
  4. How safe are the antiviral agents used – if the performance isn’t durable, why is that so? Does it claim to not leach chemicals? 
  5. If there are any Antiviral claims then, has the technology been approved for use in this area, has it passed bio compatibility tests, and is there safety data.

We are standing at a juncture where our lives are not just at risk due to the pandemic but also the protective equipment, we are using to shield ourselves from the virus. It is high time 
that we realize that the masks readily available in the market are not just spreading misinformation, but also, they are carcinogenic in nature. Some products have 10-20% of benzalkonium chloride or commonly known as BAC. Studies by scientists have reported respiratory toxicity of BAC. Exposure to BAC induces cytotoxicity and DNA damage in the human bronchial cell line and acute or repeated inhalation of BAC induces lung irritation, inflammation, and alveolar damage. Some brands are admittedly using a reaction mass of Titanium Dioxide and Silver Chloride in its products. Fraudulent claims of corona killer masks are also doing the rounds. Use of Titanium Dioxide, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) has stated that it is a suspected carcinogen associated with lung cancer if inhaled by human beings. During the pandemic, this is shameful and blatant profiteering, attempting to take advantage of consumers that are not equipped with accurate information. In a developing country like ours with its enormous diversity, there is a lack of regulation and Government oversight and these false claims can harm the lives of hundreds of millions of people. 


Masks that we are commonly using are causing more harm to our health than we can imagine. Hazardous chemicals, high silver, titanium, zinc or other leaching chemicals with heavy metal content are dangerous and can lead to potential health risks. Moreover, there is no evidence / test results conducted by the companies that suggests that the masks have any antiviral properties whatsoever. There is a serious risk of death the more such chemicals are inhaled into your lungs. Certain companies have been miscommunicating and overstating their performance data as well as withholding this important safety information, thereby misinforming users and jeopardizing their health. It must be kept in mind that N95 is not meant for COVID protection. WHO asked healthcare workers to wear N95, which has efficacy of trapping particles 300 nanometres or larger. The average size of COVID particles is 120 nanometres. The need of the hour is an effective antiviral mask that can kill and deactivate the virus and also is completely biodegradable, without causing any cross contamination to ensure complete safety. 


A few weeks ago, on 17th of June, India, experienced a scientific revolution that was the need of the hour to safeguard humanity and return to normal life. Switzerland based Livinguard AG launched their face masks in India, a one of its kind mask that can directly inactivate bacteria and viruses, including 99.9% of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 /COVID-19 virus. Currently, these masks are Made in India, by Indians, for India.  Researchers from Freie Universität Berlin and ITA RWTH Aachen, two of the most globally reputed academic institutions in virology and textiles, have confirmed the efficacy of Livinguard’s self-disinfecting technology that permanently destroys the coronavirus when applied to textiles and is permanently bound (non-leaching) to the fabric. Scientific results have followed on similar findings from The University of Arizona, Tucson and are especially relevant now as countries gradually ease lockdown restrictions and populations seek a return to the next new normal. Livinguard remains committed to its battle against COVID-19 with its masks currently being used by law enforcement and frontline workers on a global scale, protecting those most vulnerable in the battle against COVID. 


It is not just physically the unmitigable ecological damage from these non-biodegradable waste. Masks have become an integral part of our lives and are vital in battling the COVID-19 crisis, but most of them need to be disposed of daily, especially by healthcare workers. This waste is slowly piling up an environmental crisis. Delhi and other metros are still lagging in the systematic collection and disposal of this waste, which further poses a risk to the health of sanitation workers.  While there is a lot of messaging on using masks while stepping out, making masks at home etc. there is still a lot to be done in building awareness on proper disposal of single use masks so that these don’t end up as litter on streets, in dumpsites or bodies of contaminate water. Scientists have estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic by weight in the oceans than fishes but considering the huge spurt in plastic and single-use consumption in the form of PPE, masks, gloves, protective body bags, this may happen earlier. We are left with a horrifying tale of environmental destruction when we calculate the number of disposable masks with a population of 130 billion.