Healthcare/Biosafety

What Are Medical Masks Composed of and Why Do They Melt While Burning?

4 May, 2021

On April 23, a Facebook user Kakha Kvaratskhelia published a video showing him burning a medical mask. In the video, Kakha Kvaratskhelia is appalled by the fact that the medical mask melts and questions the safety of a mask, that melts like plastic, for human health. The video comes with a description where the author claims that the mask does not burn – it rather “melts, stretches, and stiffens”. Kvaratskhelia asks chemists how safe such a mask is and what diseases it can cause.

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The widespread video, showing the medical mask melting while burning, is misleading. Actually, there is nothing strange in the fact that the medical masks melt, as it is produced using spunbond, a nonwoven fabric, which has a good filtration against the bacteria and is resistant to high temperatures. Such medical masks are not harmful – they hamper the spread of COVID-19.

The fact that the medical mask melts, not burns, is not strange or surprising. They are made of spunbond, a specific material. It is a synthetic nonwoven fabric which is resistant to high and low temperatures, is water-resistant, and has a way better filtration against the bacteria than other cloths or tissues. Polypropylene is the most widely used material for manufacturing the medical masks, but polystyrene, polycarbonate, polyethylene, and polyester are used too.

Spunbond is a non-toxic fabric and it does not melt while it burns, although it emits hazardous substances. Interestingly, quality of the masks is checked exactly by melting this nonwoven fabric, as it is an evidence that the mask is safe, efficient, and made of the above-mentioned substances. If a medical mask lights up and burns, one could assume that apart from the aforementioned substances, it also contains mixtures that helps it burn. Such masks are inefficient and useless.

The World Health Organization recommends three-layer masks:

  • An innermost layer composed of a hydrophilic material, such as cotton;
  • A middle hydrophilic layer of synthetic breathable nonwoven material, such as polypropylene;
  • An outermost layer made of hydrophobic material, such as polyester.

Medical mask plays an important role in handling COVID-19, as it hampers the spread of the virus, as it creates a sort of a barrier for stopping respiratory droplets. Read earlier publications of Myth Detector to find out more details about the protective function of the masks:

  • Do Wearing Face Masks Protect Us from COVID19?
  • What Recommendations Does CDC Issue with Regards to the Masks?

Similar video has also been virally disseminated in Kazakhstan which was followed by a statement of the Ministry of Health of Kazakhstan: “First, the video has not been recorded in Kazakhstan, it was recorded in Russia, so it does not have any connection to our country. Second, the quality of the masks matches sanitary norms and requirements – they are quite high.” The Russian version of the video has been disseminated by a Kazakh media outlet Tengrinews, which also explained its disinformative nature. In the video, a woman is on the Black Sea shore and warns about the hazards of masks with a medical mask burning on a pyre on the background: “Let us see, what happens to this ordinary, hygienic, silly, idiotic mask.”


By Tamta Kapanadze
Myth Detector Lab


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