Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageOp-Ed: How do high priced face masks help anyone? Not at all.

By Paul Wallis     Aug 4, 2020 in World
Sydney - It’s wonderful tale of excessive prices, useless masks, and pharmacies and consumers paying way too much for essential PPE. Exactly what the world doesn’t need with an average infection rate of over 200,000 per day for the last month.
The face mask prices vary a lot. I went to my local pharmacies to find they’re more or less paying $10 for an N95 mask, which is the recommended mask for safety. That’s their cost. They’re selling at $10, doing their bit for the community, but at those prices, of course, there’s not much of an incentive to buy, either.
Online, there are stories of non-delivery, the wrong masks, and many and varied masks which aren’t specified as N95, the one you’re supposed to wear. The likely damage is obvious for those who don’t want to shell out $50 for a packet of 5 masks for 3-4 uses. $50 can also buy food and other frivolous things, too.
These prices have no credibility at all. The whole principle of mass production is for cheaper production costs and profits by volume. The total cost of the average mask in terms of materials couldn’t be much more than about $1-2. Add 50c for production costs and you’re making about 300%, right? I’ve also seen N95 masks at about half that price, but you can’t be sure whether they’re the real deal or just called N95s.
(Please note these are not actual documented figures; they’re a ballpark guess. The bottom line here is that you don’t produce for more than your sale price. The question is the consumer price profit margin, and the dubious brilliance of excessive cost to consumers making the masks inaccessible.)
There are stories of much cheaper masks and quite a lot of hype. The question is why the vast differential in prices between these cheap masks and documented, approved masks. The reasons aren’t likely to be good, or convincing.
Much less impressive are the other types of masks which have miraculously appeared. I actually saw a set of masks with the product description “Metal, Spandex, And So On”. Literally, “And So On”. That’s a major regulatory breach, as well as misplaced sarcasm. Product descriptions are supposed to be specific. How would you define “And So On” as a product constituent?
Some masks are simply the wrong masks. They can help, a bit, but there are issues. The reason for the N95 masks is that they are specifically designed to manage a size of particulate matter. 5nm is the working volume of particulate, blocking anything bigger, like viruses. So the right masks aren’t guesswork.
What’s being done? Nothing much, apparently.
Australia has pretty strict lockdown rules. We did well with the first outbreak, and now all stops are being pulled out to try to stop the second. …And we can’t even access the right masks? How does that work? Very badly, and very apparently.
Consumers have some pretty ugly options here. You can take a risk and buy a nice looking mask which may well be useless online or in a shop. You can pay top dollar, until the cash hit starts to bite. Can you buy online from major stockists like Alibaba? Yes, but of course there are the trade issues, sourcing from China, etc. to consider. You could buy and find your purchase locked down in customs.
Another question remains - Whether manufacturers really understand the need for the N95 masks, which are the benchmark standard. Smaller manufacturers may not be able to meet those specifications, even if they are aware of the importance of them.
Consumers have a legitimate right to bitch long and loud. This situation doesn’t help them at all. You can’t do the right thing if you can’t afford to do the right thing.
The obvious need is for mass distribution of N95 masks through any available means. Preferably through pharmacies and medical practices which understand the need for the right masks, but proper regulation could also make masks easier to distribute in high-infection zones and elsewhere if necessary.
(A local Greens Member of Parliament suggested just handing them out free on public transport. Not a bad idea; there’d be no excuse for not wearing them, either. Only the phenomenally gullible wouldn’t wear them.)
The bottom line – Get the right masks, and pressure whoever your regulator is to improve costs and distribution. This damn pandemic could go on for a very long time if basic PPE isn’t easily accessible.
A caveat - Masks can stop the spread of larger materials, like droplets. They're not totally useless, unless truly shoddy. the problem is inhaling the virus. That's the major issue.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about n95 face mask prices, face mask ripoffs, Kn95 face mask prices, useless face masks, face mask distribution during pandemic
More news from
Latest News
Top News