Costa Rica Will Create Face Mask Alternatives For Personal Protection

Reflection by the Ecological Federation President

With the global emergency by the COVID-19 pandemic, various nations have increased their demand for medical equipment, especially that for the protection of health professionals.

ntries like the United States used the Defense Production Law to stop the export of N95 masks to Latin America and Canada, while nations like China have been questioned about the quality of some of their medical products.

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As described by the general manager of the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS), RománMacaya, the international markets for these products are not working efficiently: “There is much more demand than there is supply and there are countries that are closing borders for exports of equipment and strategic supplies to deal with the pandemic,”he asserted.

Among the articles with the highest demand is the N95 mask, which provides respiratory protection against solid and liquid particles in the mouth and nose, this product is highly demanded worldwide by hospitals of countries with strong pandemic affectation.

Given this scenario, the CCSS Logistics Management, together with researchers from the Technological Institute of Costa Rica (TEC), seek to shield the country with the creation of an alternative protection product for medical personnel and others to support this emergency.

The initiative promoted by an interdisciplinary group linked to the Master in Engineering in Medical Devices of the TEC, has members with different areas of specialization (Medicine, Industrial Engineering, Materials Science, Mechanics, Electromechanics, Biotechnology, Industrial Chemistry, Physics, Design Industrial, Microbiology). The group works ad honorem with the help of professors, using the technology and infrastructure of the University.

Taking into consideration design criteria, access to material and the possibility of construction in the country, the researchers develop two solutions that meet the same quality standards required internationally for the protection objective of these masks.

Specifically, the group works on alternatives that allow the care of patients with possible cases of COVID-19, or other existing or emerging diseases, under the highest safety standards, both for health and related personnel, as well as for patients and family members.

The working group is led by Gustavo Castillo Quirós, General Practitioner and Industrial Engineer as well as Master’s student. One of the proposed masks will have three layers of protection with polymeric textiles that will serve as a filter against fluids and particles to which the person using it can be exposed.

Also the team works in parallel in a full face mask or “full-face”, which will give total protection of eyes, nose and mouth. This proposal contemplates the use of various polymers for their manufacture considering the availability of these materials in the country.

Ergonomics is an element that has been considered by the researchers, who are already in bacterial efficiency tests and electron microscopy analysis, among other tests that will provide the Logistics Management of the CCSS with the necessary knowledge so that its production can begin in mass.

“There is an indiscriminate use of cloth masks that we want to avoid since they do not protect according to standards,”said the coordinator of the Master and the research group, Dr. Jorge CuberoSesin, while indicating how creating this product in the country, could even be a new source of employment.

Dr. Jorge Cubero also stated the need to meet and contact people or companies with experience in textiles, polymers, hypoallergenic silicones that can facilitate this material, so interested bidders can contact by the email:  [email protected] tec.ac.cr.

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