Mexican Company Develops PPE Against COVID-19By Alicia Arizpe | Thu, 12/03/2020 - 14:36
Q: How does SanitekPro ensure the high quality of its personal protection equipment (PPE)?
A: SanitekPro has over 50 years of history in the distribution of industrial protection equipment, including medical uniforms and fire and static-resistant PPE. We are experts in textile technology, so face masks were an interesting project that allowed us to exploit our research capabilities. We have FDA certification and are among the few Mexican companies able to sell in the US. We perform research on particle sizes for every single product that we introduce to the market.
Q: Why was your company in a good position to develop face masks that effectively protect against COVID-19 transmission?
A: COVID-19 is a completely new disease that scientists across the globe are still studying. It is now known that SARS-CoV-2 has a 0.13µm diameter so we had to develop specific membranes for our face masks that offered protection from particles of up to 0.10µm while also ensuring the masks remained breathable and comfortable for long periods. This research allowed us to develop our tri-layer mask, which is ASTM Level 3-certified in the US and Type 2R in the EU. We also offer an N95 mask that can block particles of up to 0.06µm, which is recognized by the FDA as Non-NIOSH-approved protective equipment. We are also pursuing the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) certification. We are also certified by Mexican regulations under NOM-116.
Q: What sets your products apart from other masks in the market?
A: There are many types of tri-layer masks. While most of them look the same, the difference is in the middle membrane. Most commercial masks are nonmedical grade and offer very poor protection because they are designed to filter out bacteria, not viruses. Our membrane was designed for the protection of medical professionals and provides the highest protection available. This product was designed for doctors and nurses because once they get sick, everyone else is in trouble. It is necessary to make the healthcare sector a priority. However, these products can also be sold to the general public, which must use medical grade equipment because of the size of the virus. We sell directly to hospitals and clinics and try to avoid middlemen.
Q: What is the scope of your internationalization strategy?
A: Most of our products are exported to the US, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK, but we also sell our equipment to the Mexican public healthcare sector. About 92 percent of our products are exported. It is frustrating that most Mexican-made products have to be exported because there is little culture in Mexico on which masks work properly against COVID-19, which means that quality, costlier products tend to be exported instead of bought locally. There is also no local regulation specifying which type of masks should be used by medical professionals, unlike in the US, Canada and the EU. Mexico treats all masks as equal, which has led to significant problems such as spikes in COVID-19 cases among medical personnel.
Q: Why is it necessary to regulate the production and use of face masks?
A: The KN95 mask follows Asian regulations and while it might look exactly like an N95 mask, it is different on the inside and thus offers entirely different protection and breathability. US regulators have named the N95 mask as the best alternative for areas of high risks for up to 72 hours. Some companies in the US are forcing their employees to use face ASTM level 1 or superior or N95 masks to protect themselves.
Establishing regulations for N95 masks will require more Mexican suppliers to start making them. At this point, there are very few of us despite the extremely high demand. We expect that over the coming year, individuals will grasp the differences between certified and noncertified masks.
Q: How do you expect demand for face masks to change as a COVID-19 vaccine draws nearer?
A: Many vaccines are now being launched into the market but their full capabilities are not yet known. In the meantime, it will continue to be essential for individuals to protect themselves by using masks, at least throughout 2021. Mexican clients often prioritize low prices over the safety of the equipment they buy, which is worrisome as it puts them at risk. It is much more expensive to treat COVID-19 than to buy good protection equipment. We have many clients in both the public and private healthcare sectors. We are targeting the public health sector as most of those who are being diagnosed with COVID-19 use public hospitals. IMSS and other public institutions are also very strict in the supplies they use, which is an advantage for us. For the private sector, we rely mostly on medical visitors, focusing on Jalisco and Mexico City.
SanitekPro is a Mexican company based in Jalisco that manufactures face masks, including the N95 and surgical masks.