COVID-19: Redefining Our Present and Future Attitudes Towards Hygiene
Our attitudes and behaviors relating to hygiene are rapidly evolving as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. What textile innovations for protective equipment are Myant producing to help us stay safe in this new world?
TORONTO, April 1, 2020 – Unprecedented events have a way of fast-tracking the speed of change in a society. Emergency measures adopted in times of turmoil have a way of defining a new norm, even after the storm has passed as entire societies live on with the collective memory of the danger that once besieged them. The SARS epidemic of 2003 created drastic change, particularly in Asian countries where the donning of face masks became not only socially acceptable but became a social expectation as a way to protect the collective from one’s self. In Hong Kong and Singapore, habits like wearing face masks adopted from the SARS epidemic in 2003 have helped the city cope with the current COVID-19 situation.
In Canada and in much of the Western world, we are coming face-to-face with a similar point in our history. While SARS created a scare in the West back in 2003, COVID-19 is unquestionably redefining the way life will go on for Canadians. Many of the retailers which have remained open after the shutdown of non-essential businesses have taken to requesting customers to use contactless forms of payment over physical currency since physical currency has long been known to be transmission points for bacteria and viruses. This change is likely to cause inconvenience and frustration for the public in the short-term, but has the potential to help slow the spread of the virus. This is one example of the type of societal change necessary and perhaps inevitable as we learn to cope with this crisis and prepare for the next.
While a total lockdown of society is ultimately the most effective in controlling the pandemic, essential services and activities that are still a part of daily life pose a significant degree of risk. What is urgently needed are better preventive measures that are smart and integrated in daily life with minimal friction. Thinking ahead to when the pandemic begins to abate, societies will want to restart the economic engine, allowing people and companies to try to cautiously go back to work. What immediate tools do we give people so that they behave responsibly and feel safe? How do we as a society get back to ordinary life while protecting the most vulnerable segments of our population?
Why We Need Better Gloves
While standard polymer-based gloves help protect the wearer from the threat of pathogens, they can also effectively be transmitting viruses from one surface to another putting others at risk. A worker at a coffee shop drive-through who touches a contaminated paper bill (or any contaminated surface) with a gloved hand, will pick up your coffee cup with that same hand, and hand it to you. While the worker may be protected by that glove, the consumer may not be as lucky.
This same pattern of transmission via handling of materials with gloved hands occurs not only in retail, but in practically every essential facet of life. The grocer who is handling your food with a gloved hand is still capable of transferring a virus from one surface to another via that gloved hand. The nursing home caregiver who pushes a wheelchair using gloved hands is capable of transmitting whatever viral load exists on the wheelchair itself. The glove itself, an article of personal protective equipment (PPE), designed to protect “the person” does not in practice protect the rest of us from viral threats.
Why We Need Better Masks
Some of the places that have fared relatively better with COVID-19 have been the societies like Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong where wide-spread mask-wearing is common. It took monumental effort, the trauma of SARS, and perhaps most importantly a cultural predisposition towards collectivism in Hong Kong to shift the population towards mask-wearing. The wearing of a mask is seen less as personal protection but as a measure to protect the collective, borne from an ingrained sense of obligation to their community.
In contrast, Western societies with their focus on individualism and personal freedoms may not be able to solely rely on their citizens' sense of social responsibility to get their populations to wear masks. What makes the matter worse is that humans are creatures of habit and look for any excuse to reject a new habit they have been forced to adopt. Common complaints about wearing masks include social signalling of illness, fashion/aesthetics, cost/value of single-use masks and comfort. This highlights the need for new mask designs that are both more effective and also encourage more wide-spread adoption of mask wearing as a social practice.
Myant to Help Redefine PPE and Attitudes Towards Hygiene for Public Health
What is clear is that new practical forms of personal protective equipment are needed as well as new societal attitudes towards hygiene that will safeguard us today amidst the COVID-19 crisis and in the future. Understanding the limitations of current masks and gloves on the market which are single-use, offer poor fit, and lack antiviral properties, Myant is leveraging its deep interdisciplinary expertise across materials science, biochemistry, and textiles to rapidly produce and test new designs for PPE that will help to minimize risk of exposure to microbial threats. Myant will focus on creating a line of PPE that is safer, more comfortable, aesthetically pleasing, washable / reusable and practical.
Figure 1: Myant's Antimicrobial Glove is a knitted glove treated with copper to enhance protection from microbial threats. The glove will also feature conductive yarns making them suitable for workers that need to interact with capacitive touchscreens.
Figure 2: Myant's Antimicrobial Mask is a mask knitted with textiles treated using copper to maximize protection against microbial threats. The knitted design offers superior fit versus standard N95 masks which can be uncomfortable and ill-fitting.
Figure 3: Myant's 80,000 sqft. facility is located in Toronto, ON and supports the manufacturing of masks, gloves, other garments for medical use (pending Health Canada and FDA approval) and as well as other advanced technical textiles for use across industries.
Using textiles infused with known* antibacterial / antiviral agents such as copper (and potentially silver) and hydrophobic yarns strategically knitted to repel virus contaminated water droplets, Myant is producing masks and gloves that will provide an additional magnitude of protection against viral threats with various layered structures to minimize viral exposure and maximize efficacy. Our goal is to have these items of PPE be washable and comfortable without compromising its protection.
Why Use Copper as Antiviral Agent?
Myant has focused on using copper as a known* antibacterial / antiviral agent to be applied to yarns that are knitted into medical textiles that appear in PPE like masks and gloves. A body of evidence exists suggesting that copper can be an effective antimicrobial agent with the ability to combat both bacterial and viral pathogens.
The following is a select list of reference studies that support the use of copper:
- Overview: https://myant.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Myant-Efficacy-of-Copper-and-Silver-as-Anti-Viral-and-Anti-Microbial-Agents.pdf
For more information about Myant's response to the COVID-19 crisis, please contact:
VP, Strategy & Business Development at Myant
[email protected], 416-819-5180
Executive Vice President at Myant
[email protected], 416-895-3991
About Myant Inc.
Myant has created the world’s first platform that continuously and ambiently connects people to their bodies, to each other, and to the world around them. Using connected textiles that can sense and react to the human body and a platform that enables machine learning driven health and performance outcomes, Myant is on a mission to transform human connectedness. With an extensive patent portfolio, key exclusive relationships within the textile computing industry, a multidisciplinary team of researchers, engineers, data scientists, fashion* designers and knitting specialists, and over 80,000 ft² of manufacturing capacity, Myant is changing the way people across society connect. Connect with us to find out how we can help you create innovative solutions powered by connected textiles and the Myant Platform.
Visit https://www.myant.ca to learn more.