Surgical masks have been the most sought after commodity during the Covid-19 outbreak with many taking drastic measures to get their hands on them. However, even though masks may look the same, not all of them are quality made, which may be giving users a false sense of security, reported Straits Times.
Mr Winthrop Wong, director of Malaysian company, Wellchem Pharmaceuticals, said that surgical masks used in hospitals need to meet American and/or European standards in terms of breathability, bacteria-filtration efficacy, water-resistance, absorbency and non-flammability.
“In general, there are no fake masks, just poor quality. It’s hard to say whether they are good or bad masks just by looking at it,” he said.
For a surgical mask to work:
- The outer-most layer should be water-resistant
- The middle layer, which is used to trap bacteria, should not be too porous
- The innermost layer has to be able to absorb moisture such as saliva, mucus and sneeze droplets.
Together with Mr Wong, The Sunday Times sought out to test six brands of masks available on the market in Singapore.
- No brand: A local taxi company distributed these blue masks to its drivers.
- Sensi Mask: A box of 50 was bought for $10 (RM30.50) from a street peddler in Jakarta, Indonesia.
- Golden Gloves: A box of 50 was bought for $9.90 (RM30) from ABC Bargain Centre at Bedok.
- No brand: A box of 50 mask was bought from a local medical supplier for $20 (RM61).
- No brand: A local taxi company distributed these white masks to its drivers.
- Ultraguard from Wellchem Pharmaceuticals
The six masks went through an absorbency test which showed that five of them failed as they could not absorb any moisture. This means that a user’s droplets will not be contained if they were to cough or sneeze and will remain on the wearer’s face.
The only mask among the ones tested for absorbency that was proven to be effective was Ultraguard from Wellchem Pharmaceuticals.
Examining the masks, Mr Wong found that at least two masks looked porous while one had an extremely thin filtration layer. This would not be effective in trapping bacteria and particles, he said.
“The whole idea of wearing a mask is to protect the people around you, not mainly to protect yourself,” he said.
“That’s why our government says wear a mask if you are sick. So any germs can be caught inside the mask and you can throw the mask away.”
Meanwhile, the masks also went through a flammability test and it was found that the ones given out to taxi drivers caught fire.
On the other hand, the outer layers of all six masks passed the water-resistance test. This is to help prevent contaminated droplets from others from being inhaled.
Don’t go running after any surgical masks you see. Make sure you get the ones of good quality to ensure that you are protected and are protecting others if you are sick.
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