“Which?” Conducts First Consumer Comparisons Of Reusable Face Coverings
As a result of the Covid 19 pandemic and efforts to contain the spread of the virus public wearing of face coverings is now the norm in many situations. But how effective are they?
It is important to remember that these face coverings are not Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and should not be used as such. Face coverings are intended to minimise the risk of the wearer spreading the virus to others. Work place risk assessments will identify where PPE is required as opposed to face coverings, and BSIF (British Safety Industry Federation) has put together this useful selection tool to help you identify where and when it appropriate to use PPE or indeed a Face Covering.
When comparing Face Coverings Which? tested 15 different models discovering that the worst allowed 93% of potentially harmful particles to escape from the wearer.
While some face masks were able to block more than 99% of potentially harmful bacteria from penetrating the mask’s material and escaping, the worst only prevented 7% of these particles from escaping.
Which? is now urging manufacturers and retailers to “up their game” after three of the 15 face coverings it tested were branded as a “don’t buy”. The research revealed that masks with multiple layers are more effective than single-layer masks – but Which? said there is a clear trade-off between ‘breathability’ and how effective they are at filtration.
Natalie Hitchins, Which? head of home products and services, said there is a “huge difference” in quality between reusable masks sold in stores around the country and online.
While reusable fabric face coverings are not designed to block ultra-fine particles such as COVID-19, they are intended to help block larger droplets and aerosols breathed out by the wearer, who may be infected but asymptomatic.
Which? found the quality of instructions and advice on the face coverings was generally quite poor. Only a few products had clear and easy-to-follow guidance on wearing and washing the face covering. Concern was raised by Which that six of them didn’t state that reusable face coverings are not PPE or medical devices and seven did not explain how to safely use the mask – both of which are required by (voluntary) product standards.