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A study by “K-Tipp” shows that there are traces of harmful substances in many hygiene masks. It is unclear whether this will affect health – say the BAG and the Empa research institute.

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Masks can emit so-called volatile pollutants.

20min/Marco Zangger

This was shown by a study by the consumer magazine “K-Tipp”.

This was shown by a study by the consumer magazine “K-Tipp”.

20 minutes

FFP2 masks have the most pollutants ...

FFP2 masks have the most pollutants …

20min/Marco Zangger

  • The consumer magazine “K-Tipp” had 20 hygiene and FFP2 masks examined in the laboratory.

  • All of them had so-called volatile pollutants.

  • So far, however, it is unclear whether and how these substances in the mask affect health.

Face masks are compulsory in public transport and in most indoor spaces. These are not entirely harmless, as a study by “K-Tipp” shows: The consumer magazine had twenty masks from Asia examined in a special laboratory, and all of them emitted harmful substances.

When the mask is worn, the pollutants are inhaled as gases. This could cause headaches and dizziness and irritate the skin and respiratory organs. The pollutants are residues of solvents from production. Because the built-in filter layers consist of petroleum-based substances, among other things.

Simple hygiene masks as well as FFP2 and KN95 masks from the kiosk, Selecta machine, from retailers such as Migros, Coop or Manor and from the discounters Aldi and Lidl were tested. The laboratory found the most pollutants in FFP2 masks and the least in masks from the Selecta machine. FFP2 masks have more pollutants because they usually consist of thicker filter material.

If you are worried about harmful substances in hygienic masks, you can easily avoid them: New masks should be ventilated in the fresh air for two days. It is best to hang the mask in the sun. Because heat ensures that the pollutants no longer emit any gases. A new hygienic mask can therefore be placed in the oven at 50 to 60 degrees for half an hour with the ventilation running.

The measured amounts of volatile organic compounds, known as VOCs, range from 0.02 to 0.24 milligrams per mask, according to the “K-Tip”. It is therefore currently unclear how dangerous these residues in hygiene masks are.

Guideline values ​​for these pollutants are only available for interiors: under one milligram per cubic meter of air is harmless, writes the German Federal Environment Agency. There are no scientific studies on the effects of gaseous pollutants from masks. According to the Federal Office of Public Health, the health effects of volatile compounds are difficult to assess.

The Empa research institute cannot say how dangerous the pollutants in masks are. Empa has not carried out any such investigations, it is said on request from 20 minutes.

There is currently no systematic pollutant measurement in masks: only the papers presented by the manufacturers are checked for approval, as the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs Seco told “K-Tipp”. Samples are only given when dangerous products are reported.

Mask test standards only regulate density and filter effect

The dealers and manufacturers say that the applicable standards and government regulations are being followed. But there are no regulations for volatile pollutants in masks. The two mask test standards EN 14683 and EN 149 only regulate the filter effect and the tightness of the masks.

The test standard EN 149 also stipulates that masks must not emit fibers that are harmful to health. Masks must also be made in such a way that the wearer does not come into contact with skin-irritating materials. However, there are no limit values ​​for pollutants.

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