One model of mask distributed to Quebec schools and daycares may be dangerous for the lungs as they could contain a potentially toxic material, according to a directive sent out by the provincial government on Friday.
Radio-Canada has obtained documents showing Health Canada warned of the potential for “early pulmonary toxicity” from the SNN200642 masks which are made in China and sold and distributed by Métallifer, a Quebec-based manufacturer.
“If you have this type of mask in stock, we ask that you stop distributing them and keep them in a safe place now,” the provincial government says in the directive that was sent by three ministries: education, families and higher education.
Some daycare educators had been suspicious of these grey and blue masks for a while because they felt like they were swallowing cat hair while wearing them, Radio-Canada has learned.
Health Canada conducted a preliminary risk assessment which revealed a potential for early lung damage associated with inhalation of microscopic graphene particles. Graphene is a strong, very thin material that is used in fabrication, but it can be harmful to lungs when inhaled and can cause long-term health problems.
Patrick Baillargeon, who is charge of purchasing Quebec’s laboratory supplies, warns in a letter that Health Canada has not received any data to support the safety and efficacy of face masks containing graphene particles and therefore considers the risks associated with these medical devices unacceptable.
Radio-Canada has learned these masks were also distributed to Revenu Québec in recent months.
“We therefore ask all our customers to check if they have any in their possession,” writes Baillargeon.
At the time of acquisition and distribution, the masks did comply with all the regulations in force, he says.
In a letter sent to parents, the Lester B. Pearson school board confirmed having received shipments of the SNN200642 and distributed them within the school earlier in the year.
“We are now verifying whether any of these particular masks remain in our schools and centres. Any unused masks will be returned to our storage depot while we await further directives from the government,” the letter stated.
“Please note, our understanding is that this recall does not apply to recent shipments we have received and does not affect the pediatric (child-sized) masks being distributed to our elementary schools.”
In a statement, the English Montreal School Board said the potentially dangerous masks were never distributed to its schools or centres.
The Ministry of Families says the T1001 and HSC-HB-DMM models, delivered since December 2020, are compliant and can be used.
This is not the first time masks distributed to daycares have been recalled.
Back in December, the Quebec government revealed that masks it had been distributing for months to more than 15,000 daycares across the province did not meet safety standards, and daycare staff were ordered to stop using them.
Between May and November, the ministry distributed 31.1 million MC9501 masks throughout the network to protect staff from COVID-19, but they were determined to be unfit for use.
CBC News · Posted: Mar 26, 2021 7:13 PM ET | Last Updated: March 29
Sources Cited: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/masks-early-pulmonary-toxicity-quebec-schools-daycares-1.5966387
Similar stories have been published in other countries around the globe.
What we are breathing through our mouth and nose is actually hazardous waste’: Scientists find evidence of toxic chemicals in some face masks
Scientists have found evidence that some face masks which are on sale and being used by members of the general public are laced with toxic chemicals.
Preliminary tests have revealed traces of a variety of compounds which are heavily restricted for both health and environmental reasons.
This includes formaldehyde, a chemical known to cause watery eyes; a burning sensation in the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; wheezing; and nausea.
Experts are concerned that the presence of these chemicals in masks which are being worn for prolonged periods of time could cause unintended health issues.
Evidence obtained by Ecotextile News and shared with MailOnline reveals that although face masks should meet specific standards, not all do.
Masks have been mandated in much of the world as they are a highly effective way of preventing transmission of coronavirus particles.
But face coverings designed for use by the general public are not regulated and fail to meet the same standards as medical grade PPE.
Experts are concerned that the presence of these chemicals in masks which are being worn for prolonged periods of time could cause unintended health issues. In March, the UK Government issued advice saying children and teachers alike should wear masks in school +5
Pictured, a GCMS chromatogram of the chemicals and compounds found on a face mask. The data comes from the unique analytical technique developed by Dr Dieter Sedlak
Professor Michael Braungart, director at the Hamburg Environmental Institute, conducted tests on masks which had caused people to break out in rashes.
‘What we are breathing through our mouth and nose is actually hazardous waste,’ Professor Braungart said.
These used masks were found to contain formaldehyde and other chemicals.
Formaldehyde is the chemical which gives the ‘clean’ smell when a new pack of masks is opened. He also found aniline, a known carcinogen.
‘We found formaldehyde and even aniline and noticed that unknown artificial fragrances were being applied to cover any unpleasant chemical smells from the mask,’ he said.
‘In the case of the blue-coloured surgical masks, we found cobalt – which can be used as a blue dye.
Professor Michael Braungart, director at the Hamburg Environmental Institute, conducted tests on masks which had caused people to break out in rashes. ‘What we are breathing through our mouth and nose is actually hazardous waste,’ he said
Dr Dieter Sedlak, managing director and co-founder of Modern Testing Services in Augsburg, found other chemicals with his own unique testing method.
As well as detecting formaldehyde, he spotted clear evidence of hazardous fluorocarbons, which are heavily restricted.
Fluorocarbons are toxic to human health and scientists have recently called for them to be banned for non-essential use.
This group of chemicals was featured in the recent Mark Ruffalo hit film ‘Dark Waters’ where a water supply of an entire town was polluted by chemical giant DuPont.
‘Honestly, I had not expected PFCs 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,’ said Dr Sedlak.
‘It seems this had been deliberately applied as a fluid repellent – it would work to repel the virus in an aerosol droplet format – but PFC on your face, on your nose, on the mucus membranes, or on the eyes is not good.’
Formaldehyde in face masks causes dermatitis. A 2020 case study of a 38-year-old lab technician. As part of her job, she worked with various chemicals, including formaldehyde. She did not wear a mask to work but did wear gloves. She began suffering rashes that were itchy and burning. Doctors determined she was allergic to some of the chemicals. She then changed jobs and became a hospital nurse. Her rashes went away rapidly but then when working on a Covid-19 ward in April 2020 her dermatitis returned. Symptoms flared up a few hours following the prolonged use of a particular polypropylene (‘plastic’) surgical mask.
The researchers and mask manufacturers believe ‘trace impurities of formaldehyde’ in the masks were causing the relapse. The doctors wrote in their case study: ‘Because formaldehyde is a frequent contact sensitizer, and given that health care workers, patients, and consumers now often have to wear (polypropylene) surgical masks at work and in the public environment, similar cases might be expected in the future. To propose safer alternatives, the contact sensitizers potentially present in facial masks, and related medical devices, should be labeled, or at least be easily retrievable as in the present case.’+5
Pictured, (A) a nurse, wearing a polypropylene surgical mask, (B) who developed rosacea‐like allergic contact dermatitis from formaldehyde contained in the mask; (C) the positive patch test to formaldehyde revealing her allergy to the chemical ADVERTISEMENT
PFCs are commonly used in textiles to add a protective coating to items like rucksacks and jackets, but are not intended to be inhaled.
The concentrations of PFCs found on masks lie within the safe limit of 16 mg/kg, Dr Sedlak found, but when placed on a mask, just millimetres from a person’s mouth, the level of exposure soars past the safe limit over time.
Both the academics say their work is not enough to conclude that all surgical face masks are dangerous or comparable, but believe some masks in circulation are of concern.
‘Based on my practical experience there is certainly an elevated unreasonable risk,’ says Dr Sedlak.
Face coverings designed to be worn by the public are not classed as PPE and therefore are not subjected to the same level of scrutiny as those which are intended for use by medical professionals.
Guidelines for their use and quality is determined by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.
MailOnline has approached BEIS for comment. +5
Face coverings designed to be worn by the public are not classed as PPE and therefore are not subjected to the same level of scrutiny as those which are intended for use by medical professionals
However, the responsibility for ensuring masks meet the laid out criteria lies with the mask manufacturer and their local authorities.
But instead of having to reach medical grade standards and pass regular quality checks, these coverings only have to meet general safety laws.
‘The General Product Safety Regulations 2005 (GPSR) sets out the responsibilities of the producers and distributors of these products,’ the UK government website states.
‘As face coverings are not medical devices, we do not regulate these products.’
China was the world’s leading mask manufacturer before the pandemic, and has solidified this position amid the Covid-19 outbreak, making 85 per cent of all masks.
In the first five months of 2020, for example, over 70,000 new companies registered to make or sell face masks in China, as companies seek to cash in on the virus.
The boom in demand for such products has led to concerns that masks are being recklessly made, and opaque supply chains in China raise further concerns.
Potentially toxic masks dished out in Canadian schools
Canada last week recalled millions of masks that were distributed to schools, transport workers and daycares by the government.
Health Canada has warned they may be toxic to the lungs after being urged to inspect the safety of the coverings.
The grey and blue masks are identified by the code SNN200642 and are from the supplier Metallifer.
Analysis found evidence of graphene nanoparticles shed by the masks.
If graphene gets into the lungs it can be dangerous as it is highly abrasive and durable, leading to some people saying they felt like they were breathing in cat hair.
Another mask made by another company is also under investigation.
‘Health Canada is currently reviewing data from two manufacturers of graphene-coated face masks to determine the safety and effectiveness of their devices, and will take appropriate action as necessary,’ said Health Canada spokesman André Gagnon.
Belgium gave pharmacists 15 million TOXIC Covid face masks
Health chiefs in Belgium are concerned that 15 million fabric masks given to pharmacists may be toxic and cause pneumonia.
According to a preliminary report carried out by Sciensano, the Belgian Institute for Public Health, the masks contain nanoparticles of silver and titanium dioxide that when inhaled could damage the respiratory tract.
The face masks were made in Asia by Luxembourg-based company Avrox.
Two toxicologists warned that those who wear the masks could develop pneumonia, according to a report in Dutch-language newspaper HLN.
The nanoparticles of silver and titanium dioxide are used to whiten the fabric of the face masks.
Dr Julian Tang told MailOnline: ‘The use of metal ions may help to inactivate the virus and such ions may be safely, securely embedded in the mask material so that they do not pose an inhalation risk – and this feature/design could be specific to these Belgian masks only.’
Dr Julian Tang, a clinical virologist and honorary associate professor in the respiratory sciences department at the University of Leicester, echoed the sentiment of Dr Sedlak and Professor Braungart that more vigorous research is needed.
‘Further studies on specific mask designs need to be performed if there is a perceived possible risk for any particular mask – and masks made by different manufacturers may not pose the same risks – if any exist,’ he said.
He says if people are concerned about their masks, one option is to use professional surgical masks which do have to meet stricter standards.
‘Southeast Asian countries have been using millions of surgical masks since the first SARS-COV-1 outbreaks in 2003 – with no reported ill effects,’ he adds.
‘But even before this, globally, surgical masks have been used in surgery by teams around the world – for decades – with no reported ill effects.’
Liz Cole, co-founder of the Us For Them organisation that advocates for children’s rights, says the findings are particularly concerning for youngsters.
The recent reopening of schools in the UK was dependent on children wearing face coverings for long periods of time, including when walking around the premises and in communal areas.
‘UsforThem are concerned that the recommendations for children to wear face coverings in classrooms seems to be informed by no new scientific evidence nor does any harm assessment appear to have been conducted,’ she said.
‘Given the potential issues of child health and welfare at stake it is imperative that potential harms of face coverings in classrooms be considered and weighed against benefits’.