MANILA -- Face masks that are "self-disinfecting" and are said to kill viruses including COVID-19 upon contact are now available in the Philippines.
Called Fine Guard, the reusable face masks are created by Fine Hygienic Holding (FHH), a manufacturer of hygiene products in the Middle East and North America region.
Each boasts of the Swiss technology called Livinguard, which is said to use charged ions to "disrupt the atomic structure" of bacteria and viruses to render them "inactive."
Speaking with members of the Philippine press through a recent virtual briefing, FHH chief executive officer James Lafferty explained how their latest products work against the novel coronavirus.
"Livinguard is a physical disruption... We basically kill it in a mechanical fashion, not chemistry. The technology is completely metal-free, non-toxic, and it doesn't leach out of the mask," noted Lafferty, who was the former CEO of Procter and Gamble in the Philippines.
"Every microbe, virus, fungi has a membrane that is negatively charged. That means it will be attracted to something positively charged," he went on. "Livinguard is made of positively charged ions. Upon contact, it basically gets grabbed by the fabric, ruptures the membrane, and kills it. No chemistry is involved, nothing that this virus can do to mutate."
"It falls away from the mask and the positive charges stay on the mask, ready to go for the next one... It's amazing technology," he said.
Addressing those who may be skeptical about their claims about the Fine Guard masks, Lafferty said their products have obtained multiple FDA certifications and has been recommended in countries such as Singapore, Australia, and Saudi Arabia in their fight against COVID-19.
He said the Livinguard technology has also been tested at the University of Arizona by noted environmental microbiologist Dr. Charles Gerba and was shown to kill 99.99% of the coronavirus on contact.
Lafferty also cited research on their face masks done in Germany, showing that these can kill COVID-19.
"It's the only mask that has been proven to kill the coronavirus," he said.
According to Lafferty, Fine Guard started as an N95 mask, with the filtration material placed between two layers of fabric.
But they eventually decided to create more "comfortable" products after realizing that filtration is the "old approach" to face masks.
"N95 means it filters 95% of all pathogens to 0.3 microns. What's the size of the COVID [virus]? It's 0.125, so it can go through the N95. So the only way to protect yourself is not just filtration, but also through Livinguard," he said.
"Comfort is very important because if you don't have comfort, you don't wear it right. It's useless," he added. "Filtration is overrated and antiviral technology is the future of masks."
The Fine Guard line includes an N95 mask, a "comfort" mask, a sports mask, and masks for children, as well as gloves, each with Livinguard.
FHH soon plans to launch other hygiene items such as wipes, disinfectants for laundry and surfaces, and hand sanitizers to make the most out of the technology.
According to Lafferty, their Fine Guard reusable masks can withstand up to 50 washes, and can still be used as a normal mask once the Livinguard technology starts to wear off.
This, he said, removes the need for consumers to constantly buy disposable masks, which can be harmful to the environment.
"You can wash it depending on your sweat rate... It eventually becomes a very good normal cloth mask... You can still use it," he said.
When asked if the Fine Guard masks can also be used by medical frontliners, he replied: "We have medical grade qualifications in some countries, like in Saudi and Australia. But other countries may not give it a medical qualification because of splatter, so they mandate disposable masks."
"This is mainly a consumer product," he stressed. "We never developed it for the hospitals because they only want to use disposable masks, and we understand that."
As to how to properly clean the Fine Guard masks, Lafferty said: "We propose that you wash it with a very light soap, like a hand soap. Bleach will basically wipe out the Livinguard right away, and powerful detergents will start to neutralize it. Don't put it on the washing machine or dryer, especially with the N95 because the valve will be displaced in the machine."
The Fine Guard masks are distributed in the Philippines via RPG Distribution Services Inc. and are available at True Value, AFPCES Military Stores (Fort Bonifacio and Aguinaldo), Rustan's Deparment Store, Beauty Bar (Glorietta, Greenbelt, Central Square, and online through Birch Registry), and Fine Guard Philippines flagship store in Lazada.
Prices range from P995 for a "comfort" mask to P1,495 to an N95 mask.