News, Corona COVID-19 virus, Garment manufacturer, HSE • 4 min read

Why the supply of medical masks is not a ‘quick fix’

Martine Kok April 1, 2020

While medical mouth masks are extremely important for medical staff to ensure they are protected while taking care of COVID-19 infected patients, a lot of countries have a shortage of these masks and are urgently looking for solutions to help prevent hospitals from running out of stock. News headlines pop up frequently; ‘Thousands extra mouth masks are on their way’. Hopeful news, as a lot of nurses and doctors are in desperate need for these masks. Unfortunately, hospitals soon find out these masks aren’t qualified to serve the level of protection medical staff need - and had to reject them. A true disappointment in this time of need, which also causes commotion amongst nurses as they feel uncertain if the supply of personal protection equipment is ensured for them. How can medical staff trust that they are well equipped and protected?

The high standards for MEDICAL masks

While looking at pictures where people are sewing batches of mouth masks, it is fair to say that everybody is trying to contribute to keep themselves and others protected against the coronavirus. But there is a risk that these masks do not provide the required level of protection for medical people if they are not tested nor certified. Hence, companies who are capable to manufacture and/or deliver certified masks according to the required health and safety standards are the ones who should be doing so.

Medical masks must meet certain standards related to air permeability and protection performance against aerosols. Think about a sufficient level of breathability while blocking aerosol droplets that contains bacteria, and prevention of particles. In order to meet these requirements, you need a mask with a multi-layer system and with a non-woven barrier/laminate, while the breathability is still convenient.

Prevent a false sense of safety – check the European quality standards

To make sure you have the correct and qualified medical mouth masks, please make sure you check its certifications. At EURATEX, the European Apparel and Textile Confederation, you can find independent tools for European suppliers and manufacturers to find each other and facilitate the production of protective masks.

Focus on your strength

When the coronavirus popped up, we did our research to see if we could contribute to the demand of medical mouth masks with our fabrics. At this time, we concluded that we cannot produce the complete protective layer system, including the non-woven barrier, which meets current health and safety standards. We manufacture woven and heavier fabrics that are not suitable for medical masks according to current EU directives. We also lack the proper testing facilities to test against the requirements in place. We do have a light weight fabric that could serve as a layer in combination with the non-woven barrier and we are in contact with certified manufacturers to help them with the supply of this fabric. We leave it up to these experts to take care of the proper manufacturing and certification of these mouth masks. 

Meanwhile we continue to focus even more on our key strength which is to manufacture protective fabrics to ensure that all frontline men and women stay protected with the workwear they need.


Picture of Martine Kok

Martine Kok

Product Manager Workwear | TenCate Protective Fabrics