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Consumers need to carefully check the performance of fine dust masks 2018-11-01

Consumers need to carefully check the performance of fine dust masks

- Some masks found to be ineffective in blocking fine dust -

 

 

    As high concentrations of fine dust that may hamper people’s daily lives have been frequently occurring, regardless of the season, the number of consumers using masks has also been increasing. However, attention needs to be paid to their capability to block fine dust because it varies widely depending on the type of product.

    This was revealed by the performance test of 35 kinds of masks that labelled or advertised their capability to block yellow dust or fine particles at online shopping malls, conducted by the Korea Consumer Agency (President Hee-sook Lee) in cooperation with the office of lawmaker Eui-dong Yoo (Bareunmirae Party), who is a member of the National Assembly’s Political Affairs Committee.

 

 

[ 35 mask products tested ]

Classification

Category

Characteristics

Health Mask (20)

Sanitary aids

Masks to protect the respiratory system against yellow dust, fine dust or infectious agents

Masks labelled with phrases including ‘Sanitary Aid’ and ‘KF(Korea Filter)+the rough percentage of dust masks can prevent (80/94/99)’ on packaging

Cold Weather Face Protection Mask

(10)

For infant(1)

Industrial goods

Masks to protect against the cold

Masks labelled, advertised or indicated on packaging with phrases related to ‘protection against the cold,’ or reusable masks

For children

(1)

For adults(8)

Others

(5)

For children(1)

Industrial goods

Single-use masks that are not classified as ‘health masks’ or ‘cold weather face protection masks’

For adults(4)

-

KF(Korea Filter): Health masks indicate a number next to the KF mark to signify the rough percentage of particles the masks can prevent.

 

 

Some dust masks were found to be ineffective in blocking fine dust despite their labeling or advertising of fine dust blocking performance.

    According to the current law, masks can be approved as sanitary aids (health masks) only when their dust collection efficiency reaches a certain level of standard, and only those approved as sanitary aids can indicate or advertise their capability to block yellow dust, fine particles, respiratory infectious agents, etc.

    Among the 35 masks tested, the dust collection efficiency (the percentage of particles masks can prevent) of 20 ‘health masks (KF94)’was 95~99% (98% on average), which means they showed fine dust blocking capability above the standard.

    However, among the 15 ‘cold weather face protection masks’ and ‘other masks,’ only one (1) product’s dust collection efficiency met the minimum standard (80% or more), and the other 14 products recorded 8~79% efficiency (40% on average), which is hard to expect any fine dust blocking capability.

    Nevertheless, the products in question were labelled or advertised with the phrases including “Mask for Yellow Dust and Fine Particles,” and “Mask to Prevent Your Body From Fine Particles and Various Pollutants,”which could be mistaken for ‘health masks.’

 

 

[ Dust Collection Efficiency of Cold Weather Face Protection Masks and Other Masks ]

Dust Collection Efficiency (%)

0~19

20~39

40~59

60~79

80~93

Number of Product

5

3

1

5

1

 

 

 

Some products did not meet labelling requirements, and most products did not indicate mask sizes (width x height).

    ‘Health masks’ are classified as sanitary aids, and ‘cold weather face protection masks’and ‘single-use masks for children’are classified as industrial goods. So they are required to indicate essential information on packaging in accordance with laws related to each type of product, but one (1) health mask did not indicate its“serial numbers,”and 10 cold weather face protection masks and one (1) single-use mask for children did not indicate their “manufacturer’s name,”“age to use,”etc. or indicated them in foreign languages, showing that they did not meet their labelling requirements.

    In addition, among the 35 masks tested, only two (2) masks indicated their “size (width x height)” in Korean language. At present, in the case of health masks, there is no regulation about the size (dimensions) indication, and only cold weather face protection masks are recommended to indicate their size. In this regard, it is necessary to make it compulsory to indicate the exact mask size (dimensions), given that consumers cannot try on the masks before purchasing them.

 

Safety standards vary depending the type of product, indicating that standard-related improvements are needed.

    The masks that general consumers use are almost similar to each other in exposure area and time, wearing method and age to use, but their safety standards are different depending on the type of product. For instance, health masks do not have any safety standards about arylamine, and ‘cold weather face protection masks’ and ‘single-use masks for children’do not have safety standards about fluorescent bleaching agent, either. And in the case of ‘single-use masks for adults,’there are no safety standards at all, indicating that improvements are needed in their safety area.

    In fact, it was found that formaldehyde and arylamine were not detected in all of the 35 products tested, and fluorescent bleaching agent was detected in two (2) cold weather face protection masks.

 

[ Examples of Safety Standards by Type of Product ]

Type of Product

Category

Whether or not there are related safety standards

Formaldehyde

Fluorescent Bleaching Agent

Arylamine

Health Mask

Sanitary aids

O

(standard: no detection)

O

(standard: no detection)

X

Cold Weather Face Protection Mask

Industrial goods

O

(standard: 20~75mg/kg or less)

X

O

(standard: 30mg/kg or less)

Other masks

For children

Industrial goods

O

(standard: 75mg/kg or less)

X

O

(standard: 30mg/kg or less)

For adults

-

X

X

X

 

    

    Based on the test results, the KCA recommended related businesses to improve their labelling and advertising, and furthermore, plans to request the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety and the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards to strengthen their supervision of false or exaggerated labeling and advertising, to make it compulsory to indicate mask sizes (dimensions) on packaging, and to consider the improvements of safety standards by product.

    The KCA also advised consumers to purchase the right products fit for the purpose of use, to check the words, ‘Sanitary Aid,’ and ‘KF mark+the number next to the KF mark’if the purpose of using a mask is to block yellow dust, fine particles or respiratory infectious agents, to choose the right mask size for the person himself or herself, and to carefully check the matters needing attention indicated on packaging before using a mask.

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