genuine facemasks in kenya
Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) in Standard KS 2636: 2016 outlines the different types of face masks and spells out their components and how they should be sown. [ Photo / business today ]

The view that all facemasks in the market are genuine is false since there are many types/brands in the market that do not meet standards spelled out by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), thus giving the public a false sense of protection.

The critical issue for Kenyans is establishing whether any particular face mask is safe enough to prevent COVID-19. Based on Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) guidelines, a number of facemasks to dot meet the minimum requirements.

Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) in Standard KS 2636: 2016 outlines the different types of face masks and spells out their components and how they should be sown.

Face masks being used by a majority of Kenyans across the country are Type 5 defined as “standard masks”.

They are supposed to be made from three layers of fabric: an outer layer, a filter layer and an absorption layer in that order. The three layers should be pleated horizontally with three pleats of finished depth of 15 mm, with pleats on the front facing downwards.

“The top of the mask shall be bound with a tape to a depth of 15 mm, enclosing, on the front side, a nose piece. The bottom of the mask shall also be bound with tape to a depth of 10 mm. Each side of the mask shall be bound with tape to a depth of 10 mm and this tape shall then be folded and shall continue in each direction beyond the mask to give a tie of nominal length 380 mm. The binding of the tape to the mask, and the folding of the tape on the free sections, shall be ultrasonically sealed,” reads the Standard.

The three layers of material are specified as: Layer 1 Cotton & Polyester, Layer 2 Polypropylene, Layer 3 Cotton and Polyester.

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The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), meanwhile, advises that face masks should have two or more washable, breathable fabric.

KEBS, in an email interview, says the product certification scheme focuses on the quality and safety components of the product and not the price. Once in the market, KEBS undertakes market surveillance to ascertain the quality of products offered for sale to Kenyans.

The regulator on 28th July, 2020 raised the red flag on three face mask manufacturers and ordered them to recall their products and institute corrective actions.

Business Today analysed two different types of face masks and one of them did not meet the KEBS specifications.

Sample 1

Sample 2

Upon disassembling sample 1, Business Today established that it ticks majority of the boxes.

The second sample is basically a material (one layer) stitched on its edges to stop it from wearing out and to give it a better look.

Dr Samuel Mwangi, a general physician based in Nairobi, says manufacturers should ensure that a mask should protect the wearer from droplets from humans, which is the primary mode of COVID-19 transmission.

“The regulator should be able to have the standards for manufacturers to follow but the medical reasoning is that the mask should cover a person’s mouth and nose fully to stop the possible transfer of droplets from an infected person,” he stated.

VERDICT: Not all masks retailing in the country meet standards set by the Kenya Bureau Standards.

[ This story was produced by Business Today in partnership with Code for Africa’s iLAB data journalism programme, with support from Deutsche Welle Akademie ].

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