Covid-19: why France is forced to recall millions of FFP2 masks

Millions of state-owned FFP2-type masks ordered from Chinese manufacturer Shandong Shengquan New Materials contain graphene, pure carbon crystal. A promising nanomaterial at the industrial level, but potentially dangerous to inhale, as the Canadian authorities already reported in April, followed by several NGOs who then alerted the European Union. In France, at the same time, the City of Nancy had seized the Ministry of Health. Problem: many of these masks – among the most protective against the disease – had already been sent to hospitals, today called upon to bring them back.

In a note published on May 25 on its website and spotted by Mediapart, the ANSM (Medicines Agency) therefore informed of a recall procedure underway on this precious equipment distributed until the end of 2020. “Your structure is likely to have been the recipient of masks labeled “Biomass Graphene”. Pending the evaluation of the possible risk related to the presence of graphene in these masks, and as a precaution, you are asked to no longer use them “, is it notified.

Around 17 million units of this SNN 200647 model are affected. But the initial order from the State is much larger: 60 million FFP2 masks. This remainder is now frozen. Mediapart estimates, on the basis of 426 million FFP2 masks belonging to the State stock on February 1, that around 10% of this reserve is therefore immobilized at the present time.

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Confusion ?

The error of the health authorities is part of a context of strong tension around these masks. The order was actually placed at the very beginning of 2020, in a situation of shortage, in an extremely tight market.

Nevertheless, the order had been validated by the ANSM, despite a clear mention of the presence of “Biomass Graphene”, recognizes Public Health France (SPF) from the investigation site. The term “graphene” did not, however, strike the eyes of the agents. “This mention could undoubtedly have appeared more obvious to us at SPF and at the ANSM if there had been mention of a claim of a biocidal activity”, continues SPF.

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Precision is important. Biocides, defined as “substances or preparations intended to destroy, repel or render harmless organisms considered harmful: fungi, bacteria, viruses, rodents, insects”, according to ANSES, are strictly regulated by Europe. Graphene, which can cause breathing difficulties, is one of them in France. And for the masks, “the biocidal activity was an exclusion criterion in the specifications of SPF”, further notes Mediapart.

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