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Health Canada approves a surgical face mask made with northern Ontario graphite

ZEN Graphene Solutions has partnered with Trebor Rx to market the product.

GUELPH, Ont. — A disposable face mask containing an anti-viral coating made from Northern Ontario graphite has received the approval of Health Canada.

ZEN Graphene Solutions obtains the graphite for the coating from its Albany Graphite Desposit near Highway 11, west of Hearst.

The company has an office in Thunder Bay but its manufacturing facility is located in Guelph.

In an announcement Wednesday, ZEN said Health Canada's review process included an extensive examination of data related to shedding, inhalation safety, skin irritation, pathogen deactivation, bacterial filtration efficiency and viral filtration efficiency.

It said the review validated that  ZENGuard enhanced surgical masks are safe to use.

"Exactly one year ago today we announced the scientific breakthrough related to our antimicrobial coating – and now seeing proactive affirmation from Health Canada...we have achieved a major milestone for our company and shareholders," CEO Greg Fenton said in the statement.

He added "We are ready to bring what we believe is a significant differentiator in the personal protective equipment space to those in Canada's highest-risk environments."

Fenton said the first regulatory approval of the technology for use on surgical masks is also significant as the company continues developing its international growth strategy.

ZEN partnered last year with Trebor Rx, a manufacturer of personal protective equipment, to roll out graphene-coated masks to the market.

Trebor Rx CEO George Irwin called Health Canada's approval a game-changer in the PPE space, saying health care workers can now be offered "a better mask to fight against airborne pathogens...we look forward to reaching out to health care facilities with this new gold standard in mask protection."

ZEN has called its technology the disrupter that's needed to get ahead of the COVID-19 virus.

It says lab tests have proven it is over 99 per cent effective against the virus.   

In April, Health Canada halted the use of other manufacturers' face masks containing graphene, after a complaint from a member of the public related to a model that was made in China and distributed in Quebec.

At the time, ZEN said it supported the decision to remove potentially unsafe products from the market.

Fenton said ZEN's coating is made very differently from the masks that prompted the complaint.

The ZENGuard mask just approved by Health Canada meets ASTM Level 3 standards, the highest level for surgical masks.