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December 15, 2014

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Standard will raise quality of face masks

A NATIONAL standard for anti-smog masks for everyday use is under consideration and due to be released by the end of the year for public comment.

Currently only masks for clinical and industrial use adhere to a standard but they are not suitable for everyone and it is difficult to determine how effective they are in fending off air pollution in general and, in particular, the tiny PM2.5 pollutants which are especially dangerous.

The draft, which lists properties such as filtering and breathability, is due to be submitted to the Standardization Administration of China soon, Xinhua news agency reported.

Sales of low quality and fake masks are rampant due to the lack of a standard, said Gong Guozhuo, an expert at the National Labor Protection Product Quality Supervision and Testing Center.

On Taobao, China’s biggest online marketplace, anti-smog masks are priced from 2.6 yuan to more than 100 yuan, and many are described as having filtering properties of over 99 percent.

However, Gong said about 40 percent of anti-pollution masks on the market are not up to the standard of anti-smog masks for industrial use.

He said the filtering properties of some of these everyday masks were less than 50 percent.

Zhao Danqing, chief executive officer of Sinotextiles Co, one of the nation’s biggest mask producers and the only company involved in drafting the standard, said the proposed standard for anti-smog masks would be lower than the standard of masks for industrial use in terms of its anti-smog effect, but just slightly lower.

He said the new standard would eliminate 30 to 40 percent of anti-pollution masks for everyday use currently on sale.

Masks for industrial use are not suitable for people such as the elderly, children and pregnant women, said Zhao.

Gong said that in some other countries, Germany for example, there were strict standards on the wearing of masks for industrial use, and their sales are controlled. Gong called for similar measures in China.

In August last year, the Shanghai Consumer Rights Protection Commission tested 17 masks and found more than half of them exaggerated their protective properties.

Many masks claiming to filter PM2.5 pollutants had little effect, it said.

Eight samples were found to offer filtering properties of below 50 percent.

Many companies are cashing in on concerns over poor air quality, commission officials said.

In September, Beijing’s industrial and commercial authorities investigated several companies over claims that their anti-smog masks were 100 percent safe.

The investigation results have not yet been released.

In March, the China Consumers’ Association tested 37 mask samples, and found only nine of them had a filtering effect that it rated as “good.”


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