Buying a safe mask
Where your mask is made is as important as wearing one
It’s important to choose a company committed to producing the safest masks on the market. You need to be able to trust the source.
Graphene mask recalls
Last month over 30 million masks were recalled in Quebec, after Health Canada issued a warning about a potential safety risk. Imported from China by the Metallifer Company, these masks were distributed to hundreds of children and adults at daycare and schools throughout the province as well as to transit workers and health care professionals.
The biggest concern was with the material used: an engineered nanomaterial known as graphene. It’s reported to have antiviral and antibacterial properties – which would be great – but Health Canada has concerns about these masks creating lung toxicity.
The big problem is the size of this nanomaterial. Graphene is created from thin flakes of hexagonally-arranged carbon atoms that are between 0.001 micrometer (1 nanometer) and 0.1 micrometer (100 nanometers). To compare, a human hair is between 17 and 180 micrometers. Graphene fibers are potentially small enough to be inhaled into the lungs resulting in breathing problems.
More masks are under investigation especially those being imported from China. Be sure to check your mask doesn’t contain any graphene or biomass graphene.
Materials in healthy masks
What should a healthy mask be made of? In order for a mask to offer the proper protection it should have at least three layers. Your mask should have two layers of a tightly woven material with a third layer of a synthetic water-repelling material acting as a filter to trap infectious particles.
The most common materials in masks is spunbound polypropylene. The spunbound process involves extruding melted plastic through hundreds of small nozzles onto a conveyor belt where they bind together during the cooling process. It creates a material with breathable material with bacteria filtration that is less slippery than woven cloth. Masks can also be made of polystyrene, polycarbonate, polyethylene, or polyester as long as they have a density of either 20 or 25 grams per square meter (gsm). The final step is to take the nonwovens from bobbins, ultrasonically welds the layers together, add a nose strip with wire, attach the ear loops and stamps the mask.
Lutema M95i and M95c v2 masks, use a 90 gsm polypropylene-ethylene layer (which separates the meltblown layers to create better airflow), with an electrostatically charged 40 gsm layer. The results are a nearly 40% lighter mask weight, and an incredibly low pressure drop when breathing through the mask.
Buying a mask manufactured in North America guarantees you quality and safety. You need to know and trust your manufacturer.