Copper Fresh, a Johannesburg-based company has innovated a new solution to possibly curb the spread of COVID-19 through its pink face masks.
The company says it is making one of Africa’s first face masks capable of self-sanitising and killing the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease, just a few minutes after it touches the mask.
“We’ve got the world’s best mask, but nobody knows about it,” said Dean Lazarus, who together with David Ash and Roy Miller founded Copper Fresh.
“One of the problems with [face masks] is that it doesn’t prevent you from touching your face often. This means every time you touch your face you are spreading new virus onto your mask and contaminating it,” said Miller, quoted by Business Insider.
“[Our] mask kills viruses and bacteria. Whereas your traditional blue mask doesn’t. So, if you take your mask off and then put it back on again you are still carrying the virus with you.”.
The reason the masks can kill viruses and bacteria is the same reason the mask has a reddish, pinkish hue. It is made with copper.
Copper has been proven to be an effective killer of diseases like MRSA, E.coli, Influenza A, as well as norovirus. According to the University of Cambridge, copper and alloys that contain up to 58% copper are effective in killing microbes on furniture and equipment in hospital wards.
According to the Washington Post, when bacteria and viruses meet copper, the metal attracts electrons from the microbes, producing unstable molecules, which then kill the pathogens. The metal has also been proven to be effective against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus.
“We saw the pandemic was going to be longer than a 3-week story. We also saw there was a global shortage of N95 masks. Then we saw a sudden flood of KN95 masks, which aren’t as good as the N95 and has a short lifespan which would mean billions of masks going to landfill,” said Ash.
To protect the environment and hopefully slow down the rate of COVID-19 infections, Copper Fresh began producing masks made from fabric infused with copper oxide. This technology was created by an Israeli company called MedCu Technologies, which produces the fabric so that paramedics can dress wounds at accident scenes.
“It gives us great pleasure and pride to take part in protecting the South African people, especially given the vaccination challenge, with the world’s first and only active mask with impregnated copper-oxide fabric,” said Dr Gadi Borkow, MedCu CTO.
MedCu Technologies makes the fabric by impregnating cloth with copper oxide at a microscopic level. The copper-laden fabric is then shipped to Johannesburg to be made into masks.
“We put an N95 filter between two sheets of the copper material. So, you’ve effectively got three layers of protection. At the current production rate we can make between 40,000 and 50,000 units per day,” said Miller.
Copper Fresh’s masks are capable of self-sanitising, which means individuals can re-wear the masks several times without having the wash the mask.
“You can reuse our mask as long as the integrity of the mask is there. You can use it over and over again. Which when you put it alongside an N95 or a three-ply – the price itself ends up being a lot cheaper,” said Lazarus.
“As compared to some three-ply masks that you need to throw away every day or hour a so. On average we are getting a month and a half to two months on our masks it works out to be less than a rand per mask per usage.”
Copper Fresh wants to sell the masks for R25 ($1,07) per unit, depending on the production demand.