Seshadri Ramkumar, Professor, Texas Tech University, USA
It has been a month since the information about the new strain of coronavirus became public. Front pages of broadsheet newspapers and television screens have glaring images of facemasks worn by people in China. These single-use facemasks have spunmelt and carded filter substrates and have been in demand in China since the outbreak.
With the WHO’s recent announcement that this outbreak is a global emergency, containment measures will get attention including vaccine development. As of yesterday, there have been 170 deaths in China due to this outbreak and the infection has spread to 18 countries. According to medical experts, a primary mode of spread of this new coronavirus is by transmission through air and are airborne. Good hygiene such as hand wash and protection are recommended. Facemasks can help with the containment of airborne infection depending on their level of protection. Nonwoven wipes can be a good aide for personnel hygiene.
“Filters will play a part in slowing or stopping the spread of the coronavirus in hospitals and other building that utilize high MERV 13 and above rated filters to remove the virus which is air borne from the air. Other filters include face masks which can stop the transmission of the virus through coughing and sneezing when other people are within a 3-6 foot radius,” stated Chris Plotz, Director of Education & Technical Affairs, a 19-year nonwoven industry veteran. According to Cary-based Association of Nonwoven Fabrics Industry (INDA), filter and wipes substrates have 25% share based on weight, collectively at the end-user level. Overall, at the producer (roll goods) level, the industry is valued at US$15.5 billion.
Nonwoven substrates play an important role in human health and environmental protection. In recent times, when toxic chemical attacks happened, FiberTect decontamination wipes marketed by Chantilly-based First Line Technology proved its usefulness. After the 2010 BP oil spill in the United States, several nonwoven wipe technologies emerged. Towelie TM an environmentally friendly nonwoven-based oil absorbent technology evolved. In hospitals, while treating infected personnel, caregivers use different types of PPEs. Nonwoven and textile products rise up to the occasion and aide with the containment of infectious disease outbreaks and environmental problems such as crude oil spills.