What's Behind the Anti-Viral Mask?

  • Connexions
  • 2021-01-29
  • 1797

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to elude a definitive cure, a new twist on one of the most-recommended deterrents to the virus—face masks, but masks treated with an anti-viral component—is booming worldwide. From New Zealand to the United Kingdom, and Israel to the United States, textile technologists are introducing masks with “that little extra something” they say will help stop the virus’s spread.

Whether they use a metallic component such as copper or zinc oxide, or a non-metallic molecular structure that de-activates pathogens, these masks offer presumed peace of mind and an environment-friendly ethos of reusability. And, while public health experts say the jury is out on exactly how much more effective treated masks are than disposable masks or non-treated cloth masks, their visibility is an entree into an even wider market for pathogen-killing textiles they have been researching long before the pandemic hit.

“We fit into this trend, but we are not a trend company,” Liat Goldhammer, chief technology officer of Ramat Gan, Israel-based startup Sonovia, said. The company’s roots, Goldhammer said, go back to 2013, applying research in ultrasonic textile treatment from Bar Ilan University to combat hospital-acquired infections.

Likewise, Zurich, Switzerland-based Livinguard pioneered anti-pathogenic masks in 2016 to fight tuberculosis transmission; the company’s U.S. manager, Markus Hutnak, said masks are just a fraction of the company’s mission.

“There’s always a market,” Riley said. “It’s kind of become a boutique type of culture. In a place like the U.S., to make it into a cultural behavior, you have to have some sort of gimmick. Anti-viral masks would be one form of gimmick that would be attractive to certain markets. And that would ultimately lead to cultural acceptance and in that sense these masks could be very useful.”

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I think they do provide antiviral effects, but that’s not really the importance here,” he said. “It’s really the filtration efficacy. The justification these mask makers make in using this type of mask is that people tend to touch their masks and if live virus is still on the mask, you can get infected from your hands. But again, people are being constantly told to use hand sanitizers, so that will probably be more effective than just relying on the antiviral effect of the mask. Yes, I think these masks do contribute to the reduction in the virus, but the impact of that I think would be just incremental.”

While the impact of the augmented masks in the current pandemic may or may not be incremental, the developers say the culturally ubiquitous mandates to mask up will also drive an enduring willingness to consider how pervasive pathogens are and also the possibility of markets far beyond the end of one’s nose.

“It’s certainly a developing market,” Coppermedics’s Zuckerman said. “People will make decisions about their

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