COPPERMASK USE DISCOURAGED BECAUSE OF HOLES
Celebrities may have pushed its use with big fat talent fees but the copper masks being promoted by CopperMask PH as “killers” of viruses and bacteria that “block airborne droplets in style” also welcome COVID-19 virions, as they feature stylish holes that can welcome trillions of virions through the nose, the eyes and the mouths of users, according to a piece written by VICE World News last March 1, 2021.
The masks, priced at P380 or $7.80, apparently imported, possibly from China, are being pushed as more “breathable” than the 3M’s N95 surgical masks, and are being sold by JC Premiere, a company owned by Jonathan So and Carlito Macadangdang, both of whom have deep ties with President Duterte and his government, according to the VICE report by-lined by Anthony Esguerra.
So and Macadangdang also happen to be the co-founders of Cloud Panda PH, an IT company that created the DU30 app, Digong app, and an app for Mocha Uson, a prominent pro-Duterte blogger who had hopped from one government sinecure to another, the report said.
First to score the efficacy of the copper masks was the Makati Medical Center (MMC), which banned the masks for having big holes. “MakatiMed’s Infection Prevention & Control recommends the use of secure-fit face masks without valves, slits, or holes for the safety and wellness of its patients, guests, and healthcare workers while inside the hospital,” an advisory read.
The Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) followed, stating that holes do not permit masks to slow the spread of COVID-19, as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have consistently stressed.
“Face masks should cover your face from the bridge of your nose to under the chin. Masks with vents or exhalation valves are not advised because they allow the unfiltered breath to escape the mask,” the group of medical experts said on social media. But So and Macadangdang bristled and condemned MMC, PPS, WHO, US CDC and medical science, in general, for what they say is the slandering of their product's attributes.
They tagged the MMC advisory as another “disease” known as “misinformation and panic.” But the report said that So and Macadangdang are not doctors but are sellers of copper masks that had never been vetted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), perhaps even by the Bureau of Product Standards (BPS), or the Department of Health (DOH).
Esguerra said the critics of the So and Macadangdang face masks, including doctors, have also received cease-and-desist letters demanding they stop “defaming” the copper mask. Likewise, an Australian doctor who makes health videos for the Philippine market was amused to receive legal threats from lawyers for CopperMask PH after he published a YouTube video that pointed out the product’s flaws.
“I can’t actually believe someone’s invented a face mask with a hole in it. Is this a joke?” Dr. Adam Smith said in the video that raked in nearly 700,000 views, explaining that the mask was not recommended by Philippine and Australian health authorities.
“We put out the video, 24 hours later, we got a cease and desist [letter] in our email. They also tagged me in a story on Instagram with the letter on it. Essentially, they kept pushing my buttons so I said ‘screw them, I’ll go public with it,’” Smith told VICE World News. He also provided a copy of the letter.
The lawyers cited the cyber libel law to blunt Smith’s criticisms and to stop posting “defamatory comments and remarks against CopperMask PH” and to “remove the Facebook post immediately,” as if they have jurisdiction over the doctor and can bully him anytime they wish.
So and Macadangdang may fulminate against Smith 24/7, but the issue is the veracity of their claim that the mask they are selling kills 99.9% of viruses and bacteria, which are two different types of microorganisms. Copper may indeed be an inhospitable host to the deadly COVID-19 virus, but putting a gaping hole on the much-vaunted mask defeats the very purpose of using the copper strands, the report added.
DOH says the copper used in the masks is not medical grade but the department did not forbid its use and adds it may still be used as a mask with a gaping hole, advice that has surprised consumers and doctors alike.
“The Department of Health is not standing by science, it is heavily politicized,” one doctor threatened by So and Macadangdang told VICE World News. “As a medical doctor, I am ashamed that they did not outright discourage the use of copper masks.”
He added: “The interests at play here are clear as daylight. FDA [Food and Drug Administration] has been cracking down on many imported face masks, but they are silent on the copper mask, which is obviously flawed.”
FDA director Dr. Eric Domingo told VICE World News the copper mask “is not registered with the FDA” because it “is not being sold as a medical mask.” However, Domingo said it was “checked” by the agency’s Center for Medical Devices (CMS.)
Yet, CMS Director Cecille Matienzo of the Center for Medical Devices denied the mask was reviewed by the center since “masks for general use do not pass through our office.” When asked for her opinion on the copper mask, she told VICE World News that she was familiar with it. But she added that “as a general precaution, in using masks, our nose and mouth, even the chin, should be fully covered to avoid the entry of the virus.”