Graphene Masks: Why to Avoid Them & How To Identify Them

May 5, 2021

One of the thinnest known materials and also one of the strongest, graphene is an almost mythical seeming material. It is used in everything from solar panels to DNA sequencing and can even replace Kevlar in bulletproof vests. 

Despite its usefulness and versatility, graphene is the latest warning in COVID safety with all graphene-containing masks being on recall. Today, we’re taking a look at what graphene is, why it's problematic for COVID face masks, and how you can identify graphene masks.

What is Graphene

Graphene nanomaterial can be as small as one-atom-thick and consists of a single layer of atoms. The atoms are arranged in a two-dimensional honeycomb pattern, which contributes to its strength. 100 times stronger than steel (of equal thickness), graphene is an absolute wonder.

In addition to its strength, the material is highly versatile. It has elastic as well as thermal and conductive properties. This makes it a popular choice for electronics as well as chemical and mechanical applications.

The sportswear industry is a major proponent of graphene. Lightweight, flexible, and resilient it can hold up to punishment from sports while being breathable and easy to move in. Seemingly, these benefits should translate well to creating breathable, lightweight COVID sports masks. However, recent advisories steer us away from this conclusion. While the nanomaterial excels in sportswear, it’s a risky choice for a COVID sports mask.

Why Graphene COVID Masks Are Being Recalled

In early April, Health Canada issued a recall due for graphene masks. Although the materials' antiviral and antibacterial properties may seem ideal for masks, their risks outweigh their benefits. 

Early research into these face masks indicates a significant risk factor for lung toxicity. Worn over the mouth and nose, there is a high risk of inhaling graphene particles that can damage the lungs and affect respiratory health. 

Because this information is so new, the exact variables remain unknown. Factors like the effects of age, length of exposure, and the full health risks of graphene are uncertain. For the immediate time, doctors recommend avoiding graphene-containing masks altogether. As well, if you have worn graphene face masks and show signs of lung toxicity or other health concerns contact a medical professional. Many symptoms of lung toxicity can closely resemble those from COVID:

  • Fatigue
  • Breathlessness or Shortness of Breath
  • Dry Cough

How to Identify Graphene Masks

The purported antiviral properties of graphene masks made the material attractive to many buyers. Especially given its lightweight, breathable nature. As a result, most manufacturers saw the use of graphene as a selling point, making its presence easy to identify.

Take a look at the packaging and/or the labeling of the mask itself. If any products show that they contain graphene or biomass graphene, discontinue their use. Instead, look towards materials like double-knit cotton and cotton-polypropylene combinations.

Alternatives for Breathable COVID 19 Masks

Stepping away from graphene-containing COVID 19 masks doesn’t mean you have to miss out on breathability. In fact, the best way to increase breathability isn’t based on the mask material at all. Instead, rely on face mask inserts.

The inserts change the shape of the mask, increasing comfort and maximizing airflow. As a bonus, they also help to direct the flow away from your eyes. This prevents glasses from fogging. Since the insert greatly improves mask breathability, you can choose your mask material based on its protective capabilities.

Try the specialized design of the PowerAir face mask insert and discover the difference at work, sport, or play! 

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