Awareness needed to educate consumers about the quality of face masks

GEORGE TOWN: Face masks – disposable or reusable – come in a variety of designs and colors to match any mood or occasion, but without proper testing and certifications their effectiveness and quality will remain uncertain.

Safetyware Group chief executive Wong Kee Wei said more awareness is needed to educate consumers.

“On the outside, it’s hard to tell the quality apart, and unscrupulous manufacturers can print anything on the packaging.

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

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

Wong also wanted to raise awareness about the materials and chemicals in some face masks.

“As the mask comes in contact with the face, it’s important to make sure they’re secure.

“Certain chemicals can cause allergies and health risks.”

Meanwhile, checks in local markets found disposable face masks in matching colors and patterns sold as cheaply as RM5 for 50 pieces, while reusable cloth face masks with patterns cost less than RM5 each. .

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

At Chowrasta Market in Penang Road here, stand operator Son Jia Yi, 32, said it all comes down to consumer awareness and budget.

“There are face masks that are really cheap and some can cost over 10 times as much for each piece. Expensive and branded masks are usually certified, while the cheapest are not.

“But we have to meet the needs of consumers from all financial backgrounds. As long as there is a face mask, it’s better than nothing.

“Some people prefer quality over appearance. If unsure, they look for the ones that have the term “medical” on the packaging, but honestly we’re not in a position to comment on how much of a difference in quality they make.

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

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

The Dean of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at USCI University, Professor Assoc Dr Mogana Sundari Rajagopal, allegedly said in a report from Bernama that all manufacturers of medical or surgical masks in Malaysia must hold ISO 13485 certification and be registered by the MDA.

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

Dr Hean Ooi, vice director of the International Center of China Medical University Hospital, reportedly said that the performance of the masks was tested by evaluating the effectiveness of bacterial filtration (for bacteria larger than three microns), the effectiveness particle filtration (less than 0.1 micron particles) and so on.

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