Top German scientists have found that wearing certain types of face masks for long periods of time could result in potentially hazardous chemicals and harmful microplastics being inhaled deep into human lungs.
Professor Michael Braungart, director at the Hamburg Environmental Institute and co-founder of the world-renowned Cradle to Cradle environmental standard has told Ecotextile News that mask wearers unwittingly run the risk of breathing in carcinogens, allergens and tiny synthetic microfibres by wearing both textile and nonwoven surgical masks for long periods of time.
His recent findings have been backed up by another leading industry textile chemist Dr. Dieter Sedlak, managing director and co-founder of Modern Testing Services Augsburg, Germany in partnership with Modern Testing Services Global, Hong Kong who found elevated concentrations of hazardous fluorocarbons, formaldehyde and other potentially carcinogenic substances on surgical face masks: “I can only say 100 per cent that I have similar concerns to Prof. Braungart.”
With over 40 years in the business, Dr. Sedlak, who was also the former Global Product Safety Director at a major global Specialty Chemicals supplier is one of the most respected figures in the textile chemicals sector and helped to develop various leading EHS chemical management systems and RSL concepts used today by major global apparel and footwear brands.
Initial analytical tests by both of these experts have now thrown into doubt the wisdom of whether people should be wearing certain types of masks for hours on end. Particularly schoolchildren, factory workers and long-haul flyers who may be at a greater risk from the long-term damage to lungs through exposure to both restricted chemistry and microplastics – perhaps outweighing the short-term risk of any exposure to the coronavirus?
“What we are breathing through our mouth and nose is actually hazardous waste,” said Professor Braungart, who ran preliminary tests on used surgical masks that found traces of chemicals such as the known carcinogen aniline as well as formaldehyde and optical brighteners – both heavily restricted on consumer goods by European and US authorities to minute parts per million concentrations.
Separate studies by Dr. Sedlak have also shown the presence of compounds such as 2-butanone oxime (carcinogenic) blocked diisocyanates used as crosslinkers for perfluorocarbons (PFCs) on face masks. Used in the textile sector as oil and water repellents on fabrics, by-products of PFCs are known to be bio-persistent and their use is heavily restricted by authorities in Europe and the USA. Last year, a group of US scientists called for all per- and poly-fluorinated substances (PFAS) to be treated as one single class of chemistry and said they should be avoided for non-essential uses due to their hazardous toxicological and eco-toxicological profile.
“Honestly, I had not expected PFC’s would be found in a surgical mask, but we have special routine methods in our labs to detect these chemicals easily and can immediately identify them. This is a big issue,” explained Dr. Sedlak. READ MORE>>> Chemical cocktail found in face masks