Awareness needed to educate consumers on face mask quality


GEORGE TOWN: Face masks – disposable or reusable – come in a variety of designs and colours to match a mood or an occasion, but without proper testing and certification, their efficiency and quality will remain in doubt.

Safetyware Group managing director Wong Kee Wei said more awareness was needed to educate consumers.

“On the outside, it is difficult to differentiate the quality and unscrupulous manufacturers can print anything on the packaging.

“A safer approach is to purchase face masks from established or reputable companies or through their authorised dealers.

“If a face mask is marketed as ‘medical’, it should be registered under the Medical Device Authority (MDA). However, relying on MDA authentication itself is not foolproof as there may be counterfeits,” he said.

Wong also wished to raise awareness on materials and chemicals in some face masks.

“As the mask comes into contact with the face, it is important to ensure they are safe.

“Some chemicals may cause allergies and health hazards.”

Meanwhile, checks at local markets have found that disposable face masks in assorted colours and designs were sold as cheap as RM5 for 50 pieces, while reusable cloth face masks with designs cost below RM5 each.

While the more expensive face masks were usually packaged with bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE) ratings obtained from laboratory tests, the cheaper ones contained only “certificates” with details irrelevant to its effectiveness, such as dimensions, manufacturer’s address and material composition.

At Chowrasta Market in Penang Road here, stall operator Son Jia Yi, 32, said it all boiled down to consumers’ awareness and budget.

“There are face masks that are really cheap and some can cost over 10 times more for each piece. Expensive and branded masks are usually certified, while cheaper ones are not.

“But we need to cater to consumers from all financial backgrounds. As long as there is a face mask on, it is better than none.

“Some people prefer quality over looks. If they are uncertain, they look for those with the term ‘medical’ on the packaging, but honestly, we are not able to tell how much of a difference in quality they are.

“Others prefer face masks that can match occasions, seasons or their outfit,” said Son.

In the past, doctors have constantly reminded the public about the importance of ensuring the effectiveness of face masks, especially as more contagious Covid-19 strains emerge.

Dean of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at USCI University Assoc Prof Dr Mogana Sundari Rajagopal reportedly said in a Bernama report that all medical or surgical face mask manufacturers in Malaysia were required to hold an ISO 13485 certification and be registered by the MDA.

Each country, she had added, has its own certification standard for each type of masks.

Dr Hean Ooi, who is vice-director of the International Centre at China Medical University Hospital, reportedly said the performance of masks was tested by assessing bacterial filtration efficiency (for bacteria more than three microns in size), particle filtration efficiency (of less than 0.1-micron particles) and so on.

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