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Why Arbill’s ‘The Safety Mask’ Is Not Your Typical Face Covering

Arbill took a painstaking approach to create The Safety Mask, which has scored well above the requirements for breathability and fabric filtration in third-party tests.

In February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its mask guidance and declared that “not all masks provide the same protection” for preventing the spread of COVID-19, a virus that has killed nearly 600,000 people in the United States and almost 3 million people worldwide.

Julie Copeland, CEO of Arbill, a Philadelphia company that manufactures and distributes personal protective equipment (PPE) for workplace safety, has been trumpeting that same message since last fall when Arbill launched its “Together: The Safety Mask.” Copeland says this face covering exceeds other masks on the market when it comes to safety, breathability, comfort, sustainability and total value per use.

Arbill, which has been a leader in providing PPE equipment for commercial and government entities for 76 years, has made The Safety Mask available in the retail sector. The company did so because it simply wants to help the world be safer. Arbill, one of the largest and the only woman-owned safety company in the United States, also has experience in mask manufacturing, having mass-produced N95 face masks and other PPE for more than 50 years.

“More than ever, we are extremely focused on bringing people home safely at the end of every day,” Copeland says.

That has been Arbill’s motto since the family business began in 1945. Today, the company believes it can literally save lives by selling The Safety Mask at retail, including grocery, drug and convenience stores and home improvement centers.

Copeland joined the company her grandfather began in 1997 and took over for her father as CEO in 2005. The blueprint for The Safety Mask began in April 2020, soon after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Talk among health experts then was that people should start wearing masks to prevent the coronavirus from spreading. Problem was, there weren’t nearly enough masks to go around to the general public.

“We looked at creating a safe mask covering just as we would have created another PPE item,” Copeland says.

By doing that, Copeland means that Arbill’s experienced team took a painstaking approach to creating The Safety Mask. It wasn’t about just rushing another mask to the market to fulfill demand. It was about taking the time — in this case several months — to fine-tune the product so it could live up to its high standards.

Speaking of standards, The Safety Mask passed international testing standards for barrier face coverings by AFNOR, a French organization for standardization. The Safety Mask scored well above the requirements for breathability and fabric filtration in tests conducted for AFNOR by Eurofins Scientific, a third-party testing laboratories company based in Luxembourg. It is the only known mask to be tested by these standards, according to Arbill.

‘A Differentiator’

Consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers and retailers often talk of separating themselves from their competitors by offering products that “differentiate.” Arbill believes The Safety Mask does just that in several ways, the most important being safety.

The Safety Mask is treated with SILVADUR™ antimicrobial to inhibit the growth of microorganisms in fabric and to provide built-in freshness protection. Arbill believes The Safety Mask, which offers 95% fabric filtration protection, is one of the safest face coverings that consumers can wear — and at the right price per use.

That said, Copeland and her team realize that consumers won’t wear masks for extended durations if they aren’t comfortable. The Safety Mask features a 100% two-ply cotton fabric and is latex-free. 

The one-size-fits-most product is constructed to be gentle on the wearer’s skin and prevent the wearer from feeling too hot by reducing humidity under the mask. The Safety Mask was also independently tested and verified to provide exceptional breathability, another key factor related to comfort.

“It was very important for us to create the most comfortable mask possible,” Copeland says, noting that proper protection with the best comfort is key to successful PPE products.

When conceiving The Safety Mask, Copeland says Arbill also put a premium on making a product that offered an excellent value. She believes The Safety Mask does that through several attributes.

First, it can exceed 70 washings, although the company markets it as lasting through 50 washings because it realizes many consumers will use it more than 50 times. At 50 washings, the cost per wearing of one mask (a three-pack costs only $9.60) is only 8 cents, which Copeland calls an incredible value for a quality product.

“There’s nothing on the market now that provides that low of a per-use quotient,” she adds.

The reusability factor is important because it reduces waste, Copeland stresses. Also, she says it takes only five months for The Safety Mask to decompose compared to 450 years for a civil mask or KN95 mask, which is important to retail buyers and consumers alike when it comes to sustainability.

The Future of Mask Wearing

Many consumers have opted to wear disposable masks, but there are some issues with disposables, Copeland points out. For instance, disposable masks are made to be worn one time, even though consumers are wearing them more, which Copeland stresses is not a healthy thing to do because science says COVID-19 can last up to seven days if it comes in contact with a disposable mask.

Some masks also leave gaps around the sides of the face or nose, meaning they are not offering total protection. Neck gaiters without filters, which extend up over the face, are “incredibly thin” and don’t provide proper filtration for droplets and airborne particulates, Copeland says, which is why some airlines have banned them.

Even though cases of COVID-19 continue to dwindle with increased vaccinations, the wearing of masks could become a new normal for many Americans.

According to a survey of more than 100 immunologists, infectious-disease researchers and virologists by the journal Nature, almost 90% of respondents believe the coronavirus will continue to circulate in areas of the world for several years. People will also continue to wear masks to prevent other viruses, even the common cold.

Copeland believes many Americans won’t go near crowded places without wearing masks. Still, she believes more education is needed that not all masks provide the same protection. But thanks to the CDC and increased media attention on the subject, Copeland says more consumers will eventually opt for the utmost in safety in mask wearing.

“Consumers need to make sure the masks they are wearing have been tested and verified for filtration and breathability,” Copeland says. “For us, it’s about properly protecting people.”