Copper masks quickly became popular for its "bacteria exterminating" promise and stylish, unique look. You've probably seen it all over social media, and many celebrities have been spotted wearing the trendy mask. We have to admit—it's definitely a notch higher than a surgical mask when it comes to pairing it with our OOTDs. But turns out, it's been found that despite its marketing, copper masks aren't exactly your best bet for preventing the spread of COVID-19.
This topic recently went viral on Facebook after a user shared safety guidelines from Makati Medical Center. The hospital categorized face masks with valves and copper masks under the "not allowed" category, leading many to question why in the comments section. (As of writing, the post now has disabled comments.)
One of the main selling points of copper masks is its supposed antimicrobial benefits, which is said to come from the copper strands infused in the mask's film. While researchers have reported that the coronavirus lasts less than a few hours on copper surfaces, it doesn't necessarily mean that wearing a mask with copper on it completely protects you from the virus.
"If your mask is only 1 percent copper, that means it's 99 percent not copper," biochemist and microbiologist Dr. Karrera Djoko tells New York Times. Basically, it implies that copper-infused masks with very little copper aren't that different from your average face mask.
With that said, you might be thinking: It's still a face mask, so why isn't it as safe as a surgical or cloth mask? The answer is right under your chin—literally. The most popular kind of copper face masks are designed with a slit at the bottom, which is meant to make breathing easier. However, this slit is the reason why the mask isn't allowed in MakatiMed.
In a statement issued to Philstarlife, Dr. Janice Caoli, the hospital's department manager for Infection Prevention said, "MakatiMed earlier released a memo stating that masks with exhalation valves or vents are not recommended to be used in the hospital because these types of masks may not prevent the user from spreading COVID-19 to others. Masks with slits or holes located near the mouth or nose may also allow respiratory droplets to be dispersed in the air."
MakatiMed published an updated version of the viral advisory on Facebook on January 5. It now specifies "masks or respirators with exhalation valves, vents, slits or holes" as not allowed upon entry of the hospital. Tinted face shields are also prohibited, presumably for security reasons.
So if you've been meaning to stock up on copper masks, it might be a good idea to splurge on a box of surgical ones or support local brands with stylish cloth masks instead. Stay safe, everyone!