Reusable Masks Are Coming, Will You Use?
With the normalization of coronavirus prevention and control, masks have become people’s everyday necessities. Lately, many research groups and companies at home announced that they had developed reusable masks. So, how about its prevention effect? Is the price affordable? Will it be welcomed by the market?
Reusable masks are available now and the price is higher than the disposable masks
Recently, a variety of reusable masks have been released. Masks consist of three layers. The inner and outer layers are non-woven fabric and the middle layer is melt-blown fabric, the heart of the mask. These three layers can filter micronic dust and viruses through the physical barrier and electrostatic adsorption. High temperature, alcohol, radiation and other disinfection methods will destroy the inner structure of the melt-blown fabric, causing it to lose its filtering effect. Thus, ordinary masks cannot be reused.
The key to developing reusable masks is to find bacteriostatic and bactericidal materials or filtering materials that can withstand traditional disinfection methods.
Yuan Jianhua from a company in Guangzhou said that their company uses organosilane-treated non-woven fabrics as the inner and outer layers of the mask, which can inhibit viruses and bacteria, and the mask can be used continuously and effectively for 7 days. Another product uses PTFE filter membrane, which can be sterilized by boiling water, cleaning or medical alcohol spray without destroying the filtering effect, and can be reused for more than 7 days.
The description of a reusable nano mask using PTFE says that the filtering efficiency can reach over 96%, and it has “longer service life and can withstand the disinfection ways like boiling water and alcohol” compared with traditional melt-blown fabric. “The mask can be reused after sterilization if it is not broken.”
The public documents also show that there are companies in both Shanghai and Beijing declaring that they have developed reusable masks using materials such as nano or graphene.
It is known that the price of many reusable masks is higher than that of the same type of disposable masks. For example, the price of one kind of nano mask is 60 yuan per pack with 10 masks and each one is 6 yuan on average.
At present, some products have not obtained relevant certificates for medical devices and are only sold at some supermarkets and e-commerce platforms. The prices at e-commerce platforms range from four to tens of yuan each.
Is the reusable mask reliable?
The quality of the reusable masks vary and their filtration efficiency differs.
The test report for a reusable mask issued by Guangdong Medical Devices Quality Surveillance and Test Institute shows that the bacterial filtration efficiency of some samples can still reach over 95% after 3 days of use. A report from Guangzhou Inspection Testing and Certification Group shows that the filtration efficiency of a reusable mask produced by a company "meets the standard requirements" after being soaked 10 times.
Some masks need to be improved in terms of stability and technological maturity. For example, in the on-site inspection conducted by the Guangdong Medical Devices Quality Surveillance and Test Institute, some filter materials fell off under gentle rubbing, and the air permeability was also poor. It’s difficult to breathe after wearing the mask for a long time. A test report also shows that the bacteria filtration efficiency of some samples dropped to about 82% after several days of use.
Many customers doubt the protecting effect of this kind of reusable masks. Mr. Wang, a citizen in Guangzhou said that “Whether the reusable mask can achieve the effect claimed by the manufacturer, and whether the personal disinfection can meet the specifications, I have no idea.”
Among the evaluations of several reusable masks at an e-commerce platform, many customers showed that reusable masks greatly cut the number of masks used; some customers put forward that they were not clear about the protecting effect when using the mask again after rinsing it with the hot water; more customers thought the price was a little bit high.
What is the prospect of reusable masks?
Under the background of the normalization of epidemic prevention, the demand for masks remains high.
Some insiders believe that it is not sustainable for the whole people to rely on disposable masks in the long run, so it is imperative to increase the use rate of masks.
However, the relevant responsible person at Industry Development of Guangzhou Municipal Industry and Information Technology Bureau stated that new products need long-term application verification and huge investment to enter the market. The price is relatively high and the market approval degree is low in the beginning. It’s easy to lead to problems such as the disconnection between production and application and promotion and application difficulty, etc.
With the grow of the supply capacity of masks, the price of disposable masks keeps going down and the demand for reusable masks also declines, which lead to insufficient development motivation.
Huang Minju, the director of Medical Materials Office of Guangdong Medical Devices Quality Surveillance and Test Institute suggested that we need to increase the support for the research and development of reusable masks and encourage related scientific research institutions and companies to make a breakthrough. To improve quality while reducing the price to meet the customers’ requirements. Besides, the regulatory authority needs to publish the related standards for reusable masks as soon as possible so that the customers can be reassured.
Many insiders interviewed believe that in order to reduce the pollution of discarded masks, the treatment of civil masks needs to be closely integrated with waste classification, so that the discarded masks can be treated properly. (According to the Xinhua News Agency)