Yesterday, we reported that the Tennessee government had told everyone to wait to wear the free masks it spent $8.2 million on, after concerns arose that an antimicrobial material used in production could be harmful to people. Thankfully, the pause didn’t take too long, and the result is that the masks are, in fact, safe to wear.
“[The] EPA has evaluated Silvadur 930 Flex and determined that it is safe for use as a materials preservative in textiles or fabric,” the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention said, according to Knox News. “Once Silvadur 930 Flex is incorporated or impregnated into the fabric, it is extremely unlikely that it would be inhaled. Therefore, EPA considers inhalation exposures to be negligible and not of concern.”
Did you hear that? That was the sigh of relief from the Tennessee government, who just found out that $8.2 million won’t be going to waste.
In its evaluation of Silvadur 930 Flex, the EPA looked into the possibilities of accidental oral exposures in examples of children putting things like towels and blankets in their mouths, as well as skin exposure to clothing.
“EPA used potential skin exposures as a baseline to compare other types of exposure,” the EPA statement said. “Note that Silvadur 930 is used extensively in bandages and skin preparations, and there are no risks of concern at low concentrations, such as would be found in this fabric.”
The initial mistake came from a crucial detail that was left out by News Channel 5 in its initial report about the substance. That initial reporting listed the product as Silvadur, rather than Silvadur 930 Flex. And that information seems to have come from an unfortunate bit of shorthand by Tenn. Gov Bill Lee.
— Phil Williams (@NC5PhilWilliams) June 2, 2020
Stan Jewell, CEO of Renfro, the manufacturer of the masks, said that it has used Siladur 930 Flex for years on other textile items like towels, linens, clothes and face masks, so he knew it was harmless.
So, this story ends with good news. It’s good that Tennessee still did its due diligence. It’s good that the masks are safe for everyone to wear in public. And it’s good that Gov. Lee learned a valuable lesson in the power of precision of language.