Face Mask Facts: Health Benefits, Pollution, and More!

What are the benefits of face masks?  How often should you wash your reusable mask?  Today's interview with Dr. Alan green reveals all the answers about face mask sustainability, the data behind health and safety, and more!  So get ready for a crash course on face coverings just in time for the December mask mandate...

black reusable face mask with orange foxes on it

With face masks now being reintroduced as a mandatory staple, it's the perfect time to chat all things health and safety.  If you know me IRL, you know that I'm all about science backed evidence, data, and facts.  I've continued to wear a mask in shops, not because I am 'scared' but because I want to do what I can to protect myself and others during what continues to be a global pandemic.  And there is a reason for that...

But don't take my word for it.  I may be a Dr., but I'm not a virologist or a professional in the health field.  That's why I'm so excited to have a special interview with Dr. Alan Green, environmentalist and founder of SP Science Limited (as well as founder of Silver Life Face Masks!).  He will be answering some top questions about face coverings, including what they actually do, what makes an effective mask, and the pollution problem disposables pose to the planet.  He'll also explain what sets Silver Life Face Masks apart from other reusables.

If you have any further questions, be sure to ask them in the comments below!


light blue and pink floral reusable face mask on a red haired woman

1] There has been a lot of misinformation in the last few years, so let's set the record straight. What are the benefits of wearing a face mask? What does the research tell us?

Well, there is a great deal of misinformation but the advice and benefits are clear.  Both the WHO and the various UK authorities have stated that wearing masks in confined and public spaces will reduce the incidence and potential of infection.  CoVid-19 is carried in droplets transmitted through the air from infected people and so a quality 3-layered mask, as a minimum, worn over the nose and mouth supported by social distancing will reduce the impact.  Of course, our Silver Life Face Masks also have the added benefit of being anti-microbial where the silver content in the fabric of the mask de-activates the viruses (and bacteria and fungi) on contact with the textile.  This has been proven in standardized, laboratory tests and our face mask is now CE accredited as a Type II face mask under internationally accepted regulations.

2] When it comes time to pick a face mask, what should people be looking for? What makes an effective face mask, and what should we avoid?

Look for something that is scientifically proven, and also sustainable. On the approach to Christmas, we will all be reminded of how things escalated last year and so it has never been more important to wear a facemask, which guarantees full protection against the Covid-19 virus.  Fabric face coverings and ‘fashion masks’ offer minimal protection, and so we developed The Silver Life Face Covering which uses silver-based 3D knitted technology, and meets the World Health Organization’s recommendations for use against the current microbial pandemic.  The Silver Life Mask has also now completed the CE Registration process and is a TYPE II Face Mask, and is fully validated reusable PPE. This means that employers, schools, charities and organisation leaders, as well as hospitals, care homes and health authorities, can protect their staff, pupils, and volunteers with the Silver Life Face Masks - providing ultimate, scientifically proven, sustainable protection. Our mask is also fully effective when wet – unlike the existing PPE masks. The Silver Life Face Covering uses silver as an integral part of the thread of its fabric, due to silver’s antiviral and antibacterial properties.  The mask also filters incoming air and the outgoing breath through a mesh size of just 3 microns (whereas ten microns is the current WHO standard) and is an effective filter in reducing air pollution particles, as well as airborne viruses such as Covid-19.

[Blogger note: While 'fashion masks' are less effective than medical grade masks, they are not totally worthless.  You can find great studies online as well as summaries of the data (like this one) that show how each type of covering is ranked.  Anything is better than nothing, but knowing which masks are best goes a long way to protecting yourself and others!]

3] Disposables are creating a huge waste issue and are contributing to plastic pollution in a big way the last few years. Do you think there are any solutions to this problem?
Facemasks have become virtually compulsory both here in the UK and elsewhere throughout the world.  Unfortunately, this has led to the estimate that the UK throws out 53 million face masks per day, and everyone has witnessed people throwing face masks onto the ground - our supermarket forecourts and entrances are littered with them! Globally 129 billion face masks are used every month and more and more of these masks are finding their way into the ocean. Face masks are now found in our high streets, rivers, meadows, oceans – almost everywhere.  Of course, we’re already aware of the huge pollution problems from plastic wastes that are literally choking our oceans, as reported by Greenpeace and others, and now coral reefs in the Indian Ocean are also suffering from “face mask pollution” too.” Single-use or disposable face masks are also made using a variety of plastics, including polypropylene, polyethylene and vinyl – which means they can take up to 450 years to break down.  Even then, the plastic stays around as tiny microplastics.  These microplastics are causing fundamental problems to our world-wide ecosystems and have even been found in the Antarctic and Arctic environments. Our mask has been developed by experienced healthcare scientists and has safety, the environment, recycling and manufacturing standards at the core of its design. It also meets US Environmental Protection Agency standards for disposal – the only silver-based textile that does so.  So we have the solution to the problem of mask waste disposal – buy a Silver Life Face Mask!

4] If someone opts for a reusable mask, how often should they be washing it? Are there any special requirements for washing the mask to make sure it stays just as effective? 
It is recommended that you wash your mask at least once per week. we recommend washing our mask in warm soapy water or in your washing machine on a full cycle at 40ÂșC, and it will keep its anti-microbial ability for up to 100 washes. But do not tumble dry or bleach as this can affect the fabric.

[Blogger note: the CDC recommends to wash after every use to ensure that any droplets that have deposited onto the mask are eliminated.  You don't want to be touching those microbes all week, so do wash regularly!  This is why I recommend having a selection of masks on hand]

5] When it comes to reusables, should we be replacing these on a regular basis? Just how long can one mask last?
The Silver Life Face Covering is also reusable for up to 100 washes and is made from 36% recycled material making it better for the environment.  We have placed a maximum warranty of two years useage, so based on a weekly wash cycle each face mask will last for two years. 

6] As experience has shown, the winter can be much worse when it comes to viruses. Is there any other advice you would like to give that will help get us through the winter months safe and healthy?
The Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, has warned that coronavirus cases could reach 100,000 a day by winter and that tighter restrictions will be inevitable unless people taker steps now to protect themselves and others from the virus. The Government is also facing calls from NHS leaders, scientists and politicians to implement Plan B, including mandatory face masks for public spaces, mass events and in confined spaces, working from home and issuing a Covid “Passport” for travel and mass gatherings.  It is believed this Plan B will help to stop cases, hospitalisations and deaths spiralling ahead of winter. Of course it’s most important that everyone gets vaccinated including the booster jab if you are eligible.  Meeting outdoors where possible would certainly help - we want to enjoy Christmas without moving into the lockdown being seen across a number of nations in Europe.

7] Before you go, is there anything more you would like to share with everyone about face masks, reusables, or the work you do?

As a North West based business, we are currently in talks with the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, to support homelessness in the city by making a charity donation from every mask sold during the winter months, as well as providing Silver Life masks to vulnerable homeless people in the region. If you’d like to try a Silver Life mask for yourself, visit https://www.silverlifemasks.com/ 


Dr. Alan Green from Silver Life Face Masks

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