Revealed: Safety concerns over 85 million masks and respirators

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Department of Health issues safety warnings, notices for disposal and distribution stoppages of government’s pandemic PPE


The Department of Health has issued safety warnings, notices for disposal and distribution stoppages for more than 85 million masks and respirators, a Channel 4 News investigation has found.

The masks and respirators, many of which had passed their use by dates, were stored at the government’s Pandemic Stockpile in Haydock, Warrington and have been distributed to hospitals, care homes and GP surgeries since March.

Last week, the medical equipment regulator, the MHRA, issued guidance to the NHS stating that millions of Cardinal surgical masks, distributed by the company Medline, should be “disposed of”. More than 67 million of these masks were in the stockpile.

In advice to health workers, the NHS stated: “There is a risk to staff wearing the mask if the foam strip on the mask flakes and enters their airway or mouth”.

In the investigation to be broadcast tonight, Channel 4 News has also discovered that safety warnings have been issued about 3M 1863 respirators which the government previously claimed were safe to use.  A confidential memo sent to healthcare workers in the South West stated that certain 3M respirators were “sub-optimal”.

It warned staff to check for signs of degradation, including “grey nose foam band missing from mask”, “Degraded nose foam band – dry and crumbly”  and the “inside layer coming away and creating loose fibres in mask and mouth”.

There were 11.5m of these in the stockpile – most of which were expired at the start of the year.

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Source: Channel 4 News

Date: 1 July 2020