Know the Health Risks Before Investing in an Antimicrobial Nano-Silver Mask (and What to Buy Instead!)

By Jaydee Hanson, Policy Director, Center for Food Safety & Julia Ranney, Research and Policy Associate, Center for Food Safety

Capitalizing on the novel COVID-19 virus and the need for face coverings, several companies are now selling masks embedded with nano-silver. They claim these products are “especially” antimicrobial due to the addition of nano-silver and therefore ensure enhanced protection from the virus. Nano-silver’s antimicrobial properties come from silver ions interacting with the DNA of pathogens to prevent reproduction and limiting key enzymes. Nano-silver has been found to kill a broad range of microbes that affect food. Its efficacy with regard to protecting against COVID-19, however, is less clear. Unfortunately, while nano-silver does have antimicrobial properties, its ingestion or inhalation by humans can cause significant harm and it is not approved for use in face masks by federal government agencies.

The Basics

Human Health Concerns

With the advent of nano-silver being put in and on face masks, excessive exposure is more and more likely. This is concerning because with the aforementioned nanomaterial health concerns, nano-silver ingestion and inhalation is dangerous. In vitro studies demonstrate that nano-silver is toxic to mammalian liver cells , , and even brain cells . Further, an overwhelming majority of studies report that contact with nano-silver causes abnormalities in basic cell functions. Nano-silver may also affect the liver and interfere with beneficial bacteria within the gut upon . Further, nano-silver may potentially compromise the ability to control harmful bacteria by increasing antibiotic resistance which may have an overall negative impact on human health.

Environmental Hazards

Regulatory Oversight of Nano-Silver

Nano-silver mask providers to avoid:

Mask Recommendations

Triple-layer masks:

Filter Inserts:

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Originally published at on November 18, 2020.

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