The health authorities in Taiwan are investigating whether or not coloured face masks in the market contain illegal azo dyes — a substance known to be carcinogenic and toxic
According to Taiwan News, the authorities' previous inspections only focused on face masks' ability to filter out viruses.
But as of late, with more coloured face masks being sold in the market, concerns are running high on whether these face masks are safe for use.
Malaysia, too, sees coloured face masks being widely sold on e-commerce sites for as low as RM5.85 for 50 pieces.
On Shopee and Lazada, some vendors have sold these face masks over 27,000 times.
Animal trials have shown that exposure to azo dyes increases the risk of developing bladder tumours
Toxicologist Yen Tzung-hai told Formosa News that the dye is commonly used on fabrics, but when they are exposed to acid or high temperatures, their bonds will break and release aniline — a known carcinogen.
It is said that wearing azo-dyed masks could pose a health risk because users are in prolonged contact with a carcinogen through breathing.
Focus Taiwan reported that azo dyes are highly regulated in places like Europe and that it is not the first time that Taiwan received cases where face masks were found to contain the cancer-causing substance.
To combat the issue, Taiwan's Bureau of Standards, Metrology, and Inspection will be conducting safety checks on 70 regular face masks purchased from physical and online shops
The inspection will also determine whether the amount of formaldehyde exceeds the legal limit.
A report on the inspection can be expected in two weeks' time, said the bureau's inspection chief Lai Chun-chieh.