AgMask - Evaluation of the types, efficient use and health risks of application of silver-based biocides to provide antimicrobial properties to face masks applied during the COVID-19 crisis

Last updated on 26-2-2021 by Wesley Van Dessel
January 10, 2020
September 30, 2022

Financial Source

Service(s) working on this project

Sciensano's project investigator(s):


Evelien Frijns
Kristof Tirez

In short

The Belgian population will have to wear face masks for a long period of time. Many of these commercial face masks contain silver-based biocides that give antimicrobial properties. To answer the uprising questions about which masks are safe and which are the best (stability, durability, …), we examine if the silver-based biocides applied in face masks are in accordance with the legal standards. During the AgMask COVID-19 project, we verify if small silver particles (in the form of ions and / or nanoparticles) are released from the face masks. These particles can then result in exposure to silver through inhalation, which can be unhealthy. The project evaluates and optimizes government instructions on the practical use of face masks and assesses possible health risks.

Project summary

The AgMask COVID-19 project evaluates the types, efficiency and potential health risks of silver-based biocides that gives antimicrobial properties to face masks. It is important to know whether silver is released from face masks in the form of ions and/or nanoparticles, which can result in exposure to silver through inhalation. This information is essential to check the quality of such face masks and to monitor any risks

During this project we combine our expertise in analytical electron microscopy, heavy metal analysis and risk analysis with VITO’s breathing simulation and air sampling infrastructure. This unique collaboration allows us to:

  • characterise the silver-based biocides in face masks in situ
  • estimate the exposure by inhalation to silver ions and to silver (nano) particles
  • assess the main external factors that determine the release of silver-based biocide
  • determine the risk of the application of silver-based biocides in different types of face masks available on the Belgian market. 

The results allow us to: 

  • verify that the silver-based biocides used are in accordance with the legal standards
  • measure the extent to which wearers are exposed to the silver biocides used in mouth mask
  • evaluate and optimize government instructions on the practical use of face masks
  • check possible health risks: Which masks are safe? Which are the best (stability, durability, …)?

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