Face masks sold by major high street retailers are letting through up to 93 per cent of particles providing almost no protection from coronavirus.
Consumer watchdog Which? has tested 15 of the most common face masks available online and on the UK’s high streets and found wild disparities between their effectiveness.
According to Which? its highest rated face coverings were able to filter more than 99 per cent of particles, similar to those warn in medical settings, while the worst were only able to filter seven per cent.
The ‘Termin8 lightweight breathable face covering’ sold in WHSmith and Lloyds Pharmacy for £2 came bottom of the list and received a “don’t buy” rating from Which?, which said the mask let through six times as many particles as other reusable face masks.
The ‘Etiquette face covering’ sold in Superdrug for £3 was also found to filter just seven per cent of particles, and reportedly has a “pungent smell” when wearing.
Asda’s ‘White Patterned face mask’ also received a “don’t buy” rating after it was found to filter just a third of particles, though the grocer has now pulled the mask from sale following the findings.
Conversely, Which? recommended that ‘NEQI Reusable Face Mask’ sold in Boots and Ocado for £5 each (£15 for three) as a best buy, providing up to 80 per cent filtration and a comfortable fit.
It also recommended the ‘Bags of Ethics Great British Designer face covering’ which is sold in Boots and John Lewis again in packs of three for £15.
“With face coverings now such an important part of daily life they not only need to be durable and comfortable, but also provide effective filtration from harmful particles in order to keep us and others safe,” Which? head of home products and services Natalie Hitchins said.
“Our results prove that there is a huge difference in quality between reusable masks sold in stores around the country and online.”
Superdrug disputed how Which? tested the masks and said that the “product was clearly retailed as a fabric face covering and not a surgical mask”.
Lloyds Pharmacy also responded to the findings stating that its Termin8 mask was “compliant with all necessary requirements”.