At the moment, authorities are not routinely checking the quality of face masks being sold to the public for use in non-medical settings
The Star reported that face masks are currently only subjected to accreditation by the Medical Device Authority, a body under the Ministry of Health (MOH), for use in healthcare settings.
This is because the use of face masks in public settings has not been an issue until the COVID-19 pandemic.
Until the government introduces a regulation to ensure some standards are met, the public should be aware that they could be buying conterfeit three-ply surgical face masks that may be offering them a false sense of security.
1. Simple visual proof
If you've bought yourself a whole box of face masks, cut open one to see if it has the three correct layers.
The three layers of a surgical mask should be:
- The outer blue-coloured water-repelling non-woven layer
- The white middle melt blown filter
- The inner white soft absorbent non-woven layer
The material should be sturdy and not tear apart easily like tissue paper.
2. The breath test
A medical doctor from Singapore, Dr Chan Tat Hon, demonstrated on his YouTube channel a simple, non-destructive way to test if your face mask has the middle melt blown filter.
With a lighter, he showed that he could not extinguish a fire through a good three-ply surgical mask no matter how hard he blew.
Whereas with a fake surgical mask, his breath went through easily and blew out the fire.
He explained that the inner filter of a mask should electrostatically adsorb droplets from its wearer's mouth and thus, not go through the layers of a mask.
3. The lighter test
The last test also requires a lighter but damages the mask.
Pharmacist Zeff Tan told CNA that the face mask's filter is made out of plastics, such as polythene and polypropylene, so using a lighter to burn the mask would melt it.
In comparison, he said fake face masks would catch on fire and produce sparks because they are usually made of paper compounds instead.
We cut open a three-ply surgical mask bought from a reputable pharmacy and tried both tests in the office ourselves
Interestingly, we really could not blow out a lighter fire while wearing the mask, which we confirmed had three layers.
We also took a video of the face mask melting instead of catching on fire as easily as tissue paper:
Please be careful if you are trying this at home.
Opting for someting other than surgical masks? Here's our low-down on everything you need to know about reusable ones:
The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that fabric face masks are suitable for public use against COVID-19: