Many pesticides come with a long warning label, advising customers and applicators to take caution when handling them. Touching, swallowing or inhaling the chemical compounds could have serious health consequences.
Now, Hamilton County Health Department officials in Tennessee are back tracking after investigative journalists discovered that they were giving out face masks treated with the chemical Silvadur.
Reporters at NewsChannel5 in Nashville uncovered documents from the Environmental Protection Agency that state that the product is, in fact, very “harmful if inhaled,” and people should “avoid breathing vapor or spray mist.”
The product is also toxic to fish.
Health officials were giving out the treated masks for free, and the covering was marketed as a “non-toxic silver antimicrobial.”
Dupont manufactures the pesticide, and says silver is a known antimicrobial agent.
“[Silver] has been shown to have a very broad spectrum of activity. Silver ions are extremely effective at controlling the growth of both Gram + and Gram – bacteria. With the controlled release of silver ions found only in the SILVADUR™ antimicrobial polymer system, all bacteria and fungi are extremely susceptible to this technology.”
NewsChannel5 says the state contracted with a North Carolina manufacturer to buy 5 million of them and they had plans to give them out at regular intervals.
WRCBtv obtained a statement from the Hamilton County Health Department, and a representative said “only trace amounts of Silvadur are applied to the fabric and that amount will continually diminish with each wash. Until more data is made available…the public is asked to refrain from using and distributing the masks.”
NewsChannel 5 interviewed a board member of Beyond Pesticides, who shared his skepticism about the face mask product.
"I wouldn't wear one,” said Dr. Warren Porter. "Nobody wants to breathe in COVID, but I wouldn't want to be breathing in something that I also knew could be poisoning my body in a relatively short period of time and might be having multi-year effects on my health."
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