The public have been urged to exercise caution when buying cloth masks in traffic as their efficacy and the condition of production cannot be ascertained.
Mr Muntaka Chasant, an entrepreneur in respiratory protection devices, expressed worry that flaunting cloth masks in the faces of drivers and passengers for sale in traffic could lead to the contamination of the masks.
“Street hawkers displaying their cloth masks ostentatiously in the faces of drivers and other commuters who touch them to select which design they prefer is an area we have to look at quickly,” Mr Chasant told the Ghana News Agency in an interview on Saturday.
“Cloth masks may help to block the larger droplets from the wearer in case they have the virus, but it is absolutely important wearers understand that they get minimal protection compared with certified filtering face pieces such as N95, KN95, and P2, which use electrically charged fibers to filter out particles down to 0.3 microns.”
Mr Chasant, the Chief Executive Officer of AirMask and Textiles Company, an anti-pollution mask company in Accra, explained that the N95 respirator, for instance, is airtight and when worn correctly, enables the wearer to breathe through the snug mask without leaks on the sides.
He expressed worry that cloth mask wearers may be having a false sense of security, thinking they had the same level of protection as wearing of certified respirators.
“Homemade masks fit loosely, and usually use filtering layers that are not scientifically tested to filter out tiny particles that are of concern to the wearer.”
“Some people seem to position the masks to sit right below their noses, which expose them to infection, especially the coronavirus”.
Mr Chasant is also an air pollution awareness campaigner, known for his campaign on the health effects of air pollution in low-income areas such as Agbogbloshie and Jamestown in Accra.
He said respiratory protection was based on science and it was time to educate mask wearers on the ‘dos and don’ts’ in order not to put themselves in harm’s way.
“Aside the benefit respirators provide during this COVID-19 pandemic, we should be happy that wearers may also see reduced exposure to particulate pollutants from car exhaust, road dust, open burning of residential trash, and soot from the use of biomass-fueled cookstoves indoors,” he said.
Mr Chasant urged people with lung function problems to seek medical advice before wearing any kind of respiratory protection device.
Meanwhile, he has urged the Accra Metropolitan Assembly to ensure that street beggars stopped touching vehicles in traffic and getting too close to drivers and passengers because “nobody knows what infection they may be carrying.”
“You find panhandlers in a lot of traffic stops in Accra, and it is frightening at this point in time to still see children and adults darting from car to car, touching car windows and getting too close to drivers.”
“They move between hundreds if not thousands of cars each day begging for money. They are at risk themselves, and also expose commuters to infection and disease. It’s a difficult situation but the City of Accra must endeavour to do something about it,” Mr Chasant said.