Fact Check: Are Copper Masks Effective Against Coronavirus?
It's important to remember that no studies have been done on the use of copper masks in fighting coronavirus.
It is being publicized that copper masks work better than normal masks against the coronavirus because germs and bacteria cannot survive for long on copper.
Are copper masks really more effective against the virus?
Copper masks are being sold saying that copper is a natural disinfectant and that if the virus comes in contact with such masks, it will be neutralized within 4 hours.
The Basis of Such Claims
Copper is considered to be an antibacterial and antiviral.
A study that came out in March 2020 focuses on how long the SARS-CoV-2 virus can remain on a surface. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, said that in a controlled lab condition, the virus can remain on both stainless steel and plastic for a few days, while on copper, it survives only for a few hours. According to this study, the virus cannot remain on copper for more than 4 hours.
Dr Ashwini Setya, Senior Gastroenterologist at Max Super speciality Hospital, Saket, Delhi, while referring to this study, says that based on its results, the possibility can be entertained that the virus does not survive for long on copper items.
But, no such specific study has been conducted for copper masks. The study in question talks only about copper surfaces and not copper fabrics.
Dr Setya also notes that copper is not flexible, so a mask cannot be made entirely from copper, it can only be knitted in the thread. At the same time, for the elimination of the virus, it is necessary that the outer and inner layers of the mask contain copper, so that the virus comes in contact with copper.
The important thing to remember is that the copper masks being made available in the market have not been studied, especially in the case of the novel coronavirus.
A study published in PLoS One on respiratory face masks with copper oxide stated that people usually use and dispose normal masks incorrectly, which increases the risk of spreading the infection. In such a case, copper masks can be helpful in reducing such a risk, because viruses cannot stay for long on copper.
However, it must be noted that this study was done on H1N1 and H9N2 influenza viruses, and was written by researchers working at Cuperon, the makers of copper masks.
Dr Sonar Narula, a Microbiology Consultant at Jaslok Hospital and Research Center in Mumbai, says that the guidelines of health agencies regarding masks do not mention copper masks separately.
“I cannot say anything specifically for copper masks. World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control have only outlined the use of surgical, cloth, and N-95 masks.”Dr. Sonar Narula, Consultant, Microbiology, Jaslok Hospital and Research Center, Mumbai
Experts recommend that it is more important that people wear masks, and wear them properly - so that the nose and mouth are well covered, and also take care of hand hygiene.
Copper masks can be worn in the same way as we usually wear other masks, but this does not mean that hand washing, physical distancing and other precautions can be ignored.
At the same time, it cannot be claimed that copper masks will prove to be more effective. More research needs to be done in this direction.
Health Agencies' Advice Regarding Masks
According to the American Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), masks with two or more layers should be worn to prevent the infection from spreading.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a three-layer fabric mask:
The inner layer of the mask that comes in direct contact with the face should be made of hydrophilic material. This refers to a material that can easily absorb droplets released from the nose and mouth, such as cotton.
The middle layer should work like a filter. This should be a strip of polypropylene fabric.
The outermost layer should be made of hydrophobic material, that is, which repels droplets and moisture. These should be made from synthetic materials such as polyesters or cotton-polyester fabrics.
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