August 16, 2022
HONG KONG – Six surgical face mask products being sold in Hong Kong showed “unsatisfactory” results in bacteria tests based on European Union standards, the city’s consumer watchdog said on Monday.
In a statement, the Consumer Council said it tested 30 models of single-use surgical face masks of different colors and patterns for filtration efficacy, comfort level, and the presence of bacteria.
The council said six models had bioburden levels, or the levels of unsterilized bacteria, that exceeded the limit of 30 colony forming unit per gram under EU standards.
“Amongst these, the model found with the highest bioburden even had a value that exceeded the limit by over 6 times, showing worrisome hygiene condition,” the council said.
“During the pandemic, members of the public need to wear face masks for long hours both at school and at work to prevent infection or transmission of viruses. However, if the hygiene condition of the face mask itself is unsatisfactory, it might cause skin problems on the face,” it added.
Amongst these, the model found with the highest bioburden even had a value that exceeded the limit by over 6 times, showing worrisome hygiene condition
Hong Kong Consumer Council
On the other hand, the council said 29 models had an outstanding filtration performance with an average bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE) of over 99 percent. The remaining model’s filtration efficiency was below what its manufacturer claimed, ranging from 96.7 percent to 97.3 percent.
“The average BFE and average Particle Filtration Efficiency (PFE) of all models reached 95 percent or above, equivalent to reaching the Level 1 requirement of the America Society for Testing and Materials F2100 Standard,” the council said.
“However, despite all models being able to provide basic protection for the wearer in daily situations, over 60 percent (19 models) were found to have at least 1 sample with a PFE lower than claimed, reflecting that manufacturers still had much room for improvement in maintaining the quality of their products,” it added.
The council also tested the face masks for resistance to penetration by synthetic blood, simulated by the splashing of blood or body fluid onto the mask surface.
Sixty-three percent or 19 models completely passed the test with excellent performance but, in the test at the lowest pressure (80mmHg), two models performed poorly with 7 and 26 samples penetrated by synthetic blood, respectively.
The models also underwent a mask harness tension test, with over 20 percent (seven models) having at least one among four test samples that was found to be lower than the lower limit (10N tension) set by the national standard.
Among them, three models even had all 4 test samples torn apart at below 10N, meaning that the ear strap could snap more easily, the council said.
“The council urges manufacturers to promptly rectify this issue, as the need to frequently change face masks not only wastes consumers’ money, but also causes wastage,” it added.
In a separate statement, the council said it tested 30 anti-stretch mark products for pregnant and postnatal women and found that 14 of them had fragrance allergens.
Four models had potentially harmful substances like synthetic musks or phthalates, which may increase the risk of foetal and infant exposure to them through maternal transfer and breast milk.
“The council reminds mothers who always have close contact with their newborn babies, particularly those who are breastfeeding, that if they need to use anti-stretch mark products on their breast areas, they should choose products that do not contain potentially harmful substances,” it said.