Four other dubious mask alternatives

With surgical masks flying off the shelves, more alternatives are cropping up online.

But Dr Leong Hoe Nam, 49, an infectious diseases physician at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, explains why we should not turn to these alternatives.


Sold on: e-commerce sites

The plastic visor attached to this bucket hat is meant to shield against splatters of saliva and other respiratory droplets.

“It is also a physical barrier, but only if someone is spitting directly at you,” Dr Leong says.

If coronavirus particles are airborne, however, the anti-spit hat is completely useless.

“You can’t breathe through the centrepiece, so air enters from the sides, which are wide open,” he adds. “All it does is make you look like a water bottle with a loose, yellow cap.”


Pitta mask. PHOTO: PITTA

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Perhaps a more stylish option would be the Pitta Mask, popular for its soft and stretchy polyurethane material. Fitting snugly on the wearer’s face, the mask is designed to be breathable and comfortable even after long hours.

It helps block out airborne pollen for people who suffer from allergic rhinitis. However, it is unable to filter out viruses, which are much smaller particles than pollen.

“It helps as a physical barrier if someone is sneezing or coughing, but offers no protection against any viruses,” says Dr Leong. “This has minimal benefit.”


Toamit Virus Shut Out lanyard. PHOTO: VIRUS SHUT OUT

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This little blue card is “pure nonsense”, says Dr Leong.

While chlorine dioxide – the lanyard’s key ingredient – is a proven disinfectant, it does not work in this form.

Typically, the chemical undergoes a reaction and is released as a gas which can be used to sterilise healthcare and laboratory equipment.

“It is unfathomable to me how that reaction can be controlled in a small cassette,” Dr Leong adds.

Moreover, the chemical is toxic when it is too concentrated.


Reusable 3 ply antimicrobial face mask. PHOTO: 1929 MASK

Sold on: for $25 each

A bold claim on its website says this mask can “kill 99 per cent of bacteria and microbes”.

The product seems promising, with three layers, like a regular surgical mask. Its outer layer is water-repellent, the innermost one is made with moisture-wicking cotton and the middle layer has “antimicrobial properties”, according to a press release on March 12. Antimicrobial products kill or slow the spread of micro-organisms such as bacteria and fungi.

But Dr Leong says: “The effectiveness of a three-ply mask depends on the ability of the middle layer to filter out fine particles.”

The 1929 Mask website makes no mention of such a filtration layer.

“And I can’t be sure that the active ingredients make any difference,” Dr Leong adds. “It is hard to endorse.”

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