Fashion For Safety: How Safe Are Fashionable PPEs?


Have you ever pictured a society where wearing masks and face shields and being covered up would be the norm?

No? Well, welcome to 2020.

When the coronavirus swept all over the world and threatened humanity’s safety, personal protective equipment became all the rage. Suddenly, masks and face shields can be seen on sale on every corner and every store. An acrylic shield can be found installed in every public transport vehicle. And a growing number of people started wearing coveralls despite the country’s warm tropical climate.

The Need

When the number of cases started to go up, more and more medical practitioners have been forced into duty, sometimes going for days with very minimal breaks and only a few hours of sleep. To say that they were exhausted is a huge understatement.

Deprived of proper nourishment and rest, our medical frontliners immune systems were getting compromised, which increased the risk of contracting the coronavirus and other contagious diseases present in hospitals and treatment centers.

You would see on the news how our health institutions weren’t just understaffed but ill-equipped as well. One by one, doctors and several hospital management were posting on social media about their need for more PPEs.

Masks, face shields, coveralls, lab gowns, and shower caps, among others, were in short supply. At one point, we saw our doctors and nurses donned in makeshift PPEs made out of garbage bags.

Yes, it was that bad

This prompted Metro Manila’s designers and haute couture icons to pitch in and do their part to help in the battle against the deadly disease. With the initial idea of helping fill in the gaps, ordinary folks like you and I started to take notice. And with the subsequent and gradual easing of the country’s lockdowns, they found themselves getting inquiries about their so-called designer PPEs.

surgical gloves

Medical-grade vs. Nonmedical-grade

We should all be aware that one of the reasons there was a lack of PPEs was not because there was not enough clothing material to make PPEs that could cover a person’s entire body. Coverage was not the issue. It had to do with the material that PPEs were made of.

When it comes to PPEs, certain standards need to be met to be considered safe for medical use. Otherwise, it will render the suit and equipment practically useless.

Medical-grade PPEs are made of impermeable materials like those made by 3M and Honeywell. In some cases, taffeta and nylon taffeta were used, at the very least, for the suits to be considered medical-grade. If the material is not waterproof, it’s no different from the jackets and suits in your closet.

Know as well that wearing PPEs entails a huge responsibility. There are proper ways of putting them on. They are meant to be used once and then disposed of properly to avoid contagion. If you mess up one of these, you risk contaminating yourself and the area you’re in.

How PPE suits are designed and made is another thing. Some details should not be overlooked; otherwise, its integrity will be compromised. First, details such as the number of seams and holes must be kept to the very minimum. Doing this prevents infectious body fluids from penetrating the suit. Second, PPEs must be produced in a sanitized environment to be considered suitable for industrial use. And third, certifications will validate if the suits are suitable for use in hospitals and medical institutions.

So is it safe to wear?

With the growing market for fashionable PPEs, the question now on people’s minds is: Are these suits really safe to wear? Will it help protect us from the coronavirus? Is it really reliable?

According to rheumatologist Dr. Geraldine Zamora, PPEs are designed to protect healthcare workers and patients. Those who work outside hospitals and are not exposed to bodily fluids don’t need to wear PPEs to go about their daily lives. But there’s also nothing wrong in doing so if it gives a person some peace of mind.

However, if you intend to make designer PPEs a staple in your wardrobe, you need to know how to remove and wash these reusable suits properly. Added features such as hoods and pockets and other embellishments can be causes of contamination.

That being said, non-medical-grade fashionable PPE suits won’t exactly protect you. It can even lead one to have a false sense of security that could lower their guards.

Choosing to wear something to cover yourself up is okay. But if you find it bothersome, especially in this weather, don’t feel pressured to jump on the bandwagon. Go home and properly wash exposed areas with soap and water, and you’re good.

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