S. Korea approves sales of battery-powered face masks thru enactment of safety standards

By Park Sae-jin Posted : October 26, 2021, 10:48 Updated : October 26, 2021, 10:48

[Courtesy of LG Electronics]

SEOUL -- South Korea has announced the enactment of preliminary safety standards for battery-powered electric face masks to enable domestic sales of portable respirators that have a set of fans to suck in and blow out air through high-performance filters. People wearing electric masks can avoid situations in which eyeglasses get fogged up by respiratory gas exiting face masks during cold seasons.

South Korea's electronics maker LG Electronics released "LG PuriCare Wearable Air Purifier," a battery-powered face mask, abroad in 2020 for about $220. Ironically, the high-tech mask never had a chance to be put on the store shelves at home because the government did not have safety standards ready for the mask, which was a convergence product of a conventional facemask and an electric air purifier.

Consumers who were tired of wearing disposable masks every day to prevent COVID-19 infection have voiced complaints through online communities. Some criticized the government for not counteracting fast enough to changes in market trends. A small number of consumers bought LG's electric face mask from other countries such as Singapore and the United States through global online shopping malls.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy enacted preliminary safety standards for electric face masks. The new standards set by the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards regulate safety prerequisites, testing methods, and terms of indication for the battery-powered masks. The new standards will be enforced on December 22. 

"Although Electric masks with an electronic filter system are devices that filter particulate matter and allow their wearers to breathe easily, we could not have the devices sold because they were convergence devices applied with new technologies. We did not have safety standards ready for such products," the ministry said in a statement on October 26.

The safety standards require an electric mask to electronically filter all air intake and outtake and use replaceable medical-grade polypropylene filters. The face mask device needs to be tested for the harmful chemical content of materials, shockproof capability, flame-resistant capability, waterproof capability and the safety standards for batteries. Makers must test their products before distribution and receive government certification.
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