DETROIT – Almost everyone in Michigan has worn a mask during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Many are looking for ways to maximize their mask benefit and since the surface of copper is a known antimicrobial, can a copper-infused mask help?
Metals like copper and silver are known to have antimicrobial properties -- enough so that when researchers published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine on how long COVID-19 could survive on surfaces, they included copper in their analysis. No infectious virus could be found on copper after four hours, compared to 24 hours with cardboard. That’s where the idea that using copper fibers or infusing fabric with copper could improve a mask wearer’s protection.
In order to allow the user to breathe, masks have fine pores that filter contaminants. The presence of copper doesn’t improve that filtration, it’s simply dependent on the size of the pores.
What about the things that get trapped in or on the mask -- could copper help there? It’s possible, but it’s important to understand that the ability for copper to kill bacteria and viruses is not instantaneous.
Bacteria and viruses that come in contact with the copper will be eliminated faster than if there was no copper, however many copper masks are made of multiple layers with only one that contains copper. The other layers will still be contaminated.
Trust Index: Not true
While at least one layer might be expected to be less contaminated, there’s not enough evidence to say the masks are more hygienic.
There’s some fun science behind the idea of using a copper in a mask, but no evidence suggests it would be safer. Additionally, the primary purpose of a mask is to prevent the user from spreading their own germs, and a copper mask won’t change that.
More: Trust Index articles