Shopping for face masks with antimicrobial properties? We consulted medical experts on what you should know before buying
Editor’s note: As we will report below, experts agree that face masks do not replace or relieve the need to wash your hands and social distance, and they absolutely do not alone prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Months into the COVID-19 pandemic, wearing a cloth mask has become a wardrobe staple for most Americans. The CDC recommends them to prevent spread of the virus, especially for those who may be asymptomatic, carrying the virus without realizing it. Many retailers are selling non-medical masks, and many are touting masks with extra protection like insertable filters, which have become more popular — they can help further minimize airborne particulate. And, of course, masks are expanding into various styles, including face masks for kids and an entire universe of handmade face masks on Etsy. Another popular mask trend? Antimicrobial masks. Major retailers like Amazon and Etsy are selling antimicrobial masks — even biotechnology companies have even gotten in on the trend. Do you need an antimicrobial face mask? And how should you go about finding the right one for you? We consulted medical experts on what this feature means and how to best shop for it in your next face mask.
Repeated wear of cloth masks can cause unpleasant odors, discoloration and deterioration of the fabric, explains Jeffrey Keane, CEO of Noble Biomaterials, a biotechnology company specializing in antimicrobials for soft surfaces, the cloth in face masks among them. Antimicrobial masks aim to solve that issue, in addition to self-sanitizing — basically, the face mask includes materials that help keep it clean as it helps keep you clean. These cloth masks are designed to be odor-resistant and to help prevent the growth of bacteria on the surface of the fabric, said Keane. His company created an EPA-registered antimicrobial found recently in some masks in the market, said Keane. “The virus and bacteria are a threat on soft surfaces like fabric masks, and antimicrobial masks help eliminate cross contamination,” Keane noted.
“If you put your hands on a regular mask to adjust it, the virus could end up on your hand and then later on your mouth or eyes,” he said. “The antimicrobial masks lessen that risk.”
When you cough or sneeze into an antimicrobial mask, positively charged ions in the fabric will inhibit and eliminate bacteria on the surface of the mask, said Keane. Antimicrobial masks also help to eliminate odor from use, which Keane believes will increase the likelihood you — or your kids — will wear the mask.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates coronavirus could be viable for “hours to days.” Though it’s important to note there hasn’t been a documented case of a person getting infected from a surface contaminated with the new coronavirus.
Experts say the less porous a surface, the more virus you will get on your hands when you touch it. And any area that’s touched frequently, like doorknobs and elevator buttons, are most infectious.
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