Science

Chemicals in Masks: What the Latest Study Says

Your nose and mouth may be covered while reading this article. The mask remains a reality for millions of French people, who are forced to use it in public transport, at work, in shops, public establishments and in a handful of private places, to avoid contamination with Covid-19. Some of them are surgical masks, which offer sufficient protection, certainly less than the FFP2, but much more important than handcrafted cloth confections.

However, in the long term, can these products become dangerous for our skin and, in general, for our health? C’est ce qu’a tenta de savoir la Direction générale de la concurrence, de la consommation et de la repression des frauds (DGCCRF) à through deux campagnes de prélèvements in 2020 until 2021, sur plusieurs dizaines de références de masques chirurgicaux destinés au general public. The presence of chemicals was especially suspected.

Seized, the National Health Security Agency (Anses) issued its conclusions on Tuesday. Confirming the presence of chemicals in these surgical masks does not demonstrate that health thresholds have been exceeded under recommended conditions of use.

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“During the investigations, the results of the analyzes revealed the presence of several chemical substances: dioxins, furans, PCB-DL (polychlorinated dioxin-like biphenyls), PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and VOCs (volatile organic compounds)”, thus lists ANSES. A certain mystery hangs over their presence. For the first one mentioned (dioxins / furans / PCB-DL), this would not be intentional. “One hypothesis could be the use of contaminated raw materials for the manufacture of the masks”, indicates Céline Dubois, coordinator of this expert report at the Health Security Agency. The exact origin of PAHs and VOCs could not be identified.

Fortunately, these substances are not considered dangerous. “Exposures to chemicals found in masks do not exceed health thresholds, for both adults and children (…) Compliance with health thresholds in fact guarantees the absence of risk to the health of the populations, whether these substances are inhaled or in contact with the skin ”, continues ANSES, while specifying that these results are only valid when used in accordance with the recommendations of the Higher Council of Public Health (HCSP). , with a mask change every four hours.

Second nuance: “Having carried out the expertise in a limited time, we could not study the release of the substances emitted by the masks, only their composition,” says ANSES, who finally wonders about the composition of the masks. ” nasal bars and elastics “,” the nature of the dyes used “by the manufacturers or even the allergens present in these masks. These are all elements that, if they are not dangerous, must be clearly notified to consumers on the packaging.

FFP2 masks with graphenes not recommended

In addition to its study on surgical masks, ANSES also provides information on the potential danger of graphene, a pure carbon crystal, found in several million FFP2-type masks in France. Canada was the first to remove these protections from the circuit, in April 2021, followed by France two months later.

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“Following its experience, the Agency emphasizes that the available data do not highlight worrying exposure situations”, reassures ANSES once again. But this time, the public body nevertheless recommends that public authorities favor the commercialization or supply of masks without graphene. “It is impossible to assess the health risk associated with exposure to graphene derivatives, due to the lack of information on the graphene used by manufacturers and on the toxicity of this substance, particularly in the long term, writes ANSES. In addition , the Agency points out that the objectives set by the manufacturers due to the addition of graphene in the masks are not expressed or demonstrated ”.

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