Some facemasks containing carbon in the form of graphene could pose a health risk, according to early research. France is now warning hospital managements against the use of some of the beak-like FFP2 masks, which contain this material in their filters.
This material, a form of carbon widely used in the manufacture of electronic products, is reported to have antiviral and antibacterial properties, and has been used in some facemask filters.
However, preliminary research conducted on animals suggests the inhalation of graphene particles could, in some cases, cause lung problems – although the risk to humans is still unclear.
Directors of French hospitals who purchased facemasks containing “biomass graphene” are required to stop using these masks as a precautionary measure, until further studies are carried out. This note is published on the website of the ANSM (the French national agency on the safety of medical products).
The masks in question are part of the stock procured by the French government, and made by the Chinese manufacturers Shandong Shengquan New Materials.
More than 16 million face-masks have been distributed
Another letter from the Regional Health Authorities Agency to hospital managers states that “at this stage, 60.5 million FFP2 masks, with the CE mark (denoting that they meet EU standards), could potentially contain graphene. 16.9 million of these masks were distributed in 2020”, that is 28% of total products bought and distributed to French medical, health or social establishments.
Public Health France (PHF) stated that these face masks were purchased from April 2020, “at the time of massive purchasing amid a shortage of masks”.
PHF said that the Chinese manufacturer did not mention any impact on organs, although the presence of “biomass graphene” was clearly labelled. If any impact was mentioned, the authorities may have stopped the purchase.
In April, the Canadian health ministry suspended the use of these face masks, while waiting for a proper risk assessment. This agency cited a possible link to breathing difficulties.
The Canadian health authority, Health Canada, said its “preliminary assessment identified that inhaled graphene particles had some potential to cause early lung toxicity in animals”.
Health Canada also said that that “the potential for people to inhale graphene particles from face masks and the related health risks are not yet known, and may vary based on the face mask design.”
The Canadian government also ordered the withdrawal of certain face mask models from the Canadian market.
Anses, the agency which deals with food and health security in France, will now evaluate whether or not these face masks are safe for use.