CORONAVIRUS – Masks to protect against Covid, but which could present health risks. In a note of May 25 spotted by Mediapart Monday, May 31, Public Health France issued a recall concerning 60.5 million FFP2 masks containing graphene, a material whose risks to human health are still being studied.
At the start of 2020, at the start of the coronavirus crisis, France was faced with a shortage of masks, in particular FFP2s reserved for nursing staff. The government then ordered more, including from the Chinese manufacturer Shandong Shengquan New Materials.
An order for 60.5 million units has been placed and approximately 16.9 million are distributed between reception and the end of 2020, “mainly to health establishments, medico-social establishments”, but also to “healthcare professionals of the outpatient sector ”, specifies ARS Île-de-France in a letter to hospitals consulted by Mediapart.
But these FFP2 ”’Particle filtering half mask’ labeled ‘Biomass Graphene’” masks are now the subject of a “Public Health France safety action”. In a note intended for hospitals, the National Medicines Safety Agency recommends “as a precaution” that they no longer be used “pending the evaluation of the possible risk linked to the presence of graphene in these masks.”
Graphene, a pest killer still under study
Graphene is a “carbon crystal whose atoms are arranged in a plane in a hexagonal pattern”, defines Larousse, who adds that “its properties make it a material of the future, especially for electronics”. A point supported by the CNRS which published several articles on the subject in 2014.
Its use in the health sector is also being studied, for its antiviral and antibacterial properties. As specified Mediapart, graphene is considered by the ANSM as a “biocide”, that is to say a substance “intended to destroy, repel or render harmless organisms considered harmful” such as viruses or bacteria.
To date, the toxic effects of graphene on humans are still being studied in France, but also on a European scale. In Canada, the first country to have banned masks containing graphene in April, a “preliminary analysis of available studies revealed that inhaling graphene particles could cause early pulmonary toxicity in animals,” said an official note, which also highlights the many unknowns concerning effects on humans.
SPF pleads error
However, “the biocidal activity was an exclusion criterion in the specifications of SPF” for the acquisition of the masks recognizes SPF, questioned by the information site. Santé Publique France confirms that the mention “Biomass Graphene” did appear in the order, but pleads the haste due to the period, as well as a lack of clarity: “This mention could undoubtedly have appeared more obvious to us at SPF and ‘ANSM if it had been mentioned of a claim of a biocidal activity ”, is justified the French health institution.
After the Canadian alert, the Métropole du Grand Nancy had, however, recommended no longer using the masks provided by it which contained graphene. In a press release, Mathieu Klein, mayor of Nancy and president of the Metropolis had indicated on April 14 that he had “seized the Minister of Health to obtain clear information on graphene masks.”
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