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Explainer: Do face shield expiration dates matter?

By PhilSTAR L!fe Published Sep 27, 2021 7:53 pm

After Pharmally Pharmaceutical's Krizle Grace Mago said that the company has been changing the expiry dates on face masks and face shields sold to the country, another question comes to mind: Do face masks and face shields actually expire?

During a Senate blue ribbon meeting on Sept. 24, the executive shared how their warehouse company has been selling expired and substandard face shields meant for doctors and healthcare workers. It's since prompted the back-and-forth on the effect of using protective covering after its allotted date.

Do face shields and face masks expire?

In general, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 Health Settings say that is using personal protective equipment (PPE) is not recommended beyond its manufacturer-designated shelf life—but maintains quality should be checked if need be.

"If adopted: The items should be inspected prior to use to be sure they are in good condition with no degradation, tears, or wear that could affect performance."

Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire reflected CDC's regulations and explained: “Just like any other medical commodity, meron din naman pong mga tinatawag na shelf life."

She also said that the shields provided by DOH are in good condition: "As far as DOH is concerned, whatever we were able to deliver to all of our healthcare workers were in good condition."

What does shelf life mean for face shields?

Having a shelf life is the period of time during which a material may be stored and remain suitable for use. Vergeire explained that even face shields undergo deterioration over time.

What happens if we wear expired face coverings?

During a House committee on Sept. 27, Johnny Pimentel asked Health Secretary Francisco Duque III if using expired face shields has any effect at all.

"Mayroon bang expiry date ang face shields considering that this is not perishable commodity, unlike ng pagkain, even canned goods, alam po natin may expiration 'yan because napapanis po 'yan. Itong face shields, hindi naman napapanis ito. Mayroon bang expiry dates ang face shields?"

Duque then explained that it isn't necessarily in the medical coverage, but the styrofoam in itself would be the cause of alarm for using expired face coverings.

"The DOH has established a shelf life for medical-grade face shields. The shelf life is 36 months, according to our Disease Prevention and Control Bureau director Beverly Ho. There is a component of the face shield that has styrofoam. That, apparently, is what is subject to shelf life."

In a similar vein, Vergeire shared that  "meron po siyang foam na nakadikit diyan para hindi masakit sa noo ng ating healthcare workers. Ito pong foam na ito over time, nag-pupulverize po 'yan, nadudurog. 'Yung iba nagdi-discolor po 'yan."

How do we check the designated shelf life of the face masks, shields we use?

It depends according to the brand of the face covering, but according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the manufacturer-designated shelf life is usually found in the product labeling.

Photo from Unsplash