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Copper at the Frontlines – Hong Kong to Distribute Face Masks Containing Copper to Its Citizens

Known and appreciated already by the Ancients for its antimicrobial properties, Copper has recently entered into the discourse over how to fight the current coronavirus outbreak and future pandemics.   A case in point is a new Assembly bill in New York, which seeks to reduce the spread of infection by requiring all new construction projects receiving state funding to use copper alloy touch surfaces, including door handles, bathroom fixtures, bed rails and handrails.

Over the course of the past few weeks, ARPN has featured several new ideas on how to harness Copper’s properties in the fight against coronavirus, ranging from the development of copper-infused fabrics to copper-alloyed cell phone cases. One of these new ideas is now finding practical application in Hong Kong, which found itself at the frontline of the pandemic early on and which is now, against the backdrop of dwindling infection numbers, is slowly re-opening its economy.  

Having long embraced face coverings as part of its overall strategy to reduce contagion, Hong Kong’s Innovation and Technology Bureau (ITB) earlier this week announced that the government will be distributing free reusable masks to all its citizens.  And – you guessed it – the reusable six-layer masks with “special ergonomic features” contain copper, which, according to ITB “is capable of immobilising bacteria, common viruses and other harmful substances,” and is in compliance with the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards for particle filtration efficiency, bacterial filtration efficiency, resistance to penetration by synthetic blood, flammability and pressure resistance.

Developed by The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles & Apparel, the patented mask was awarded a Gold Medal at the International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva 2018.

Hong Kong may have flattened its curve and is now moving into the next phase of working to stave off another wave of infections, but elsewhere, we are still a far cry from being out of the woods.  Experts agree that coronavirus is here to stay, and future pandemics will follow.  

There continues to be some debate over the effectiveness of face masks in the overall fight against coronavirus (in particular when it comes to home-made face coverings many governments are now advising its citizens to wear in public). That debate notwithstanding, effectively “arming” textiles with virus-fighting properties courtesy of copper would help strengthen our arsenal in the fight.