Face masks – Product Safety Q&A

July 9, 2020

I’ve been hearing a lot about face masks recently. Why should I wear one?

The official advice from the Department of Health is:

“Wearing a cloth face covering is recommended in situations where it is difficult to practise social distancing, for example, in shops or on busy public transport. Wearing of cloth face coverings may help prevent people who do not know they have the virus from spreading it to others.”

Visit gov.ie for more information.

Are there different standards of face coverings? Which type should I wear?

Government advice is recommending that face coverings be worn on public transport, retail outlets, and other places where it is difficult to maintain social distancing. Cloth face coverings are made from materials such as cotton, silk, or linen. You can buy them or make them at home using items such as scarfs, t-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels.

NB: Face coverings are not intended to protect the wearer against viral infection.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) face masks and medical/surgical face masks are of a different regulatory standard and Government has asked that they be reserved for healthcare workers and frontline staff at this time.

Face Mask Type Barrier Masks PPE face masks Medical Face Masks
Also known as Textile masks, comfort mask, community masks, face covering Respirators; Respiratory Protection Mask; Filtering face mask. Surgical Face Masks
Typical images
Intended purpose To reduce the risk of spread of infection in the community Personal protection from hazardous substances for the wearer A barrier to minimise the direct transmission of infective agents from staff to patients during surgical procedures and other medical settings with similar requirements.

I’ve been searching online for face coverings for my family and I to use. How can I tell if they are safe to use? Should they have a CE Mark? 

There are a number of product safety requirements that businesses have been advised to include on the packaging of face coverings.

Examples of such features are as follows:

  • Look for markings: such as the wording ‘barrier mask’ or ‘face covering’ on the packaging or in the product description online or on the packaging. NB: Face coverings must NOT have a CE marking!
  • Check the producer details: look for the name and address of the producer of the mask, which should be included on the product packaging.
  • Make sure instructions are included: The product package or online description should detail whether the product is for single use or reusable, relevant cleaning instructions as well as guidance on how to put on your mask, how to use it and how to safely remove it. User guidance should be in English.
  • Look out for warnings: A face covering should not explicitly say or imply that it will protect you against viral infection, such as COVID-19. Instead, it should detail that it can be used in conjunction with relevant public health advice (e.g. social distancing, safe respiratory etiquette etc.) to help prevent the spread of viruses to others.
  • Safety Advice: Check for warnings or warning symbols of age restrictions (e.g. not suitable for children under the age of three etc.) or if it is advisable that children be supervised while wearing the face covering at all times.

CCPC Top Tip: Only purchase face coverings that include the information and markings outlined above, to ensure that it is safe for you to use.  

Face coverings that do not provide the appropriate packaging information and markings should be referred to the CCPC’s product safety division for further investigation. Please contact our consumer helpline (01 402 5555) to provide all relevant information about your purchase, along with product images and proof of purchase (if available).

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