As we all know, the wearing of face masks is required in essentially all countries worldwide to help curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus. But unfortunately, even during a pandemic, greed can still take over and cause some to take advantage of the situation.
Just recently, a concerned citizen, named “Rochelle,” has reported that she once encountered a box of masks for sale at a market in Baguio City that was being sold at half the regular price. The price drop encouraged her to buy for her family but was shocked when she opened the box—the masks looked dirty, used, and some were even discolored. (Read: DOH Seeks Additional 3,000 Healthcare Workers in Fight Against COVID-19)
“Madumi po tapos yung nasa gitna parang gusot-gusot na tapos yung cuttings po nila is hindi po pantay pantay. Yung kulay din po ng surgical masks is magkakaiba din po,” Rochelle said in an interview.
Rochelle wasn’t the first one to report such an incident. In a viral social media post, a netizen shared how they saw a scavenger picking up used face masks. They were even told out right that the face masks are being collected to be resold.
The Department of Health (DOH) is now investigating the said incidents.
A similar incident involving citizens being caught reselling used face masks has occurred in Thailand. According to reports, authorities in Saraburi province, northeast of Bangkok, Thailand, caught a store owner selling “recycled” and repackaged face masks to customers during the COVID-19 pandemic back in March.
The store owner was said to have sold around 200,000 face masks which were washed, ironed, and repackaged and claimed as brand new. The Saraburi police said that charges were filed against the factory as their work “jeopardizes the health of the people who buy the used face masks, as well as the community near the factory.” (Read: Bitoy Recovers From COVID-19, Gives Useful Tips Against the Virus)
The incident has since then prompted the Thai government to take over the distribution of face masks in the country.
How to Spot Recycled Face Masks
In times like these when face masks are essential, it’s important to make sure that we are using clean, safe, and effective face masks. This is why it is also essential to know how we can identify a used face mask from a new one—and also how to spot a “fake” face mask.
Here are some ways you can check if the face masks have been used or not, and if it is actually a face mask you can use to protect yourself. (Read: Panalangin Laban sa Panganib na Dulot ng COVID-19)
- The real face mask is thicker than the fake ones. Most disposable face masks nowadays are 3-ply to ensure that there is some level of protection for the user.
- The material of fake/substandard masks is more paper-like than the usual plasticky feel of the real ones.
- Used masks will usually discolor because of the cleaning materials or chemicals that were used to disinfect them like bleach.
- Used masks sold in boxes will look varied as face masks of different brands have different sizes. You might see a difference in the sizes of the masks in the box if they were reused and repackaged.
The DOH encourages everyone using disposable face masks to destroy their used masks before throwing it in the trash. You can either cut the ear straps or cut the actual mask in half before disposing of it. (Read: Are Face Masks a Must When Exercising Outside?)
This goes without saying that you should also dispose of these face masks properly—put them in a plastic bag and throwing them in a closed bin. We don’t want them to end up in our oceans, after all.