(M)Ask the expert explains our new masks for the German market and addresses the dangers of misinformation in today’s Q&A:
Q: I’ve noticed that you are selling specific masks for Germany on your site. Why is this and what does it mean for those of us outside Germany? Should I be worried?
A: I can answer your question in two parts, starting with the ‘why’. You may recall from our post about EU standards and certifications that we mentioned the current situation in Germany. At the beginning of January, the German government mandated that by the end of the month, everyone needed to wear single use medical masks or FFP2 respirators when in shops or on public transport. This mandate was made in response to the new strains of COVID and with the message that it was all about ‘protecting yourself’.
If people are seen wearing cloth masks, they can be turned away from shops or even fined. Each state is policing this in their own way, with the strictest being Bavaria, where only FFP2 ‘dust’ respirators are permitted.
We understand that some places in Germany are laxer than others when it comes to policing the rules – in Berlin for example there seems to be a less strict approach, but the onus still lies with the public to prove that their mask is safe and legal. This is worrying when we hear stories from people who are struggling to catch their breath walking up the steps from the subway due to the nature of their FFP2 respirator, which was only ever designed to be worn for short periods of time.
The costs add up as well, ranging from 1-3 euros apiece, single use medical masks get expensive and as they can’t be washed, wearing them more than once is arguably more dangerous than helpful.
ISKO Vital+’s German-specific masks have the EN14683 certification and CE kitemark weaved into the fabric of the piping so as not to compromise the effectiveness of the masks. People can point to the piping to indicate that despite it not being a disposable medical mask, their ISKO Vital+ mask still meets (and exceeds) the safety standards of the medical and FFP2 masks now mandated by the government and is therefore permitted to wear throughout Germany.
The second part of your question, ‘should I be worried’ is an interesting one.
Without wanting to cause alarm, I would say ‘yes’ there is cause for concern here. Not from the masks themselves. All of our face masks have been tested and certified to provide at least 95% filtration efficiency, which is in line with the disposable medical ones the German government is mandating.
The concern is that of the spread of misinformation. We’ve been seeing a worrying reliance on unfounded ‘facts’ and non-scientific research studies throughout COVID, spreading fear and leading to kneejerk reactions by the public and governments alike. The misconception that single use medical masks and FFP2 respirators are safer and more effective than re-usable ones is a sweeping generalisation and is stirring up more fear and distrust – not to mention clogging our landfills, compromising habitats and encouraging people to remove masks prematurely to better catch their breath. Wearing a mask incorrectly or not at all poses more of a threat than what the government measures are trying to control.
As misinformation spreads across borders, so do potentially harmful mandates. Safety standards, education and communication help to keep people informed and aware, but I hate to say I’m sure we’ll see more decisions like those in Germany before the pandemic ends, adding a whole new dimension to #StoppingTheSpread.