Case study: risk associated to wearing silver or graphene nanoparticle-coated facemasks for protection against COVID-19

Arch Toxicol. 2022 Jan;96(1):105-119. doi: 10.1007/s00204-021-03187-w. Epub 2021 Nov 16.


The world is living a pandemic situation derived from the worldwide spreading of SARS-CoV-2 virus causing COVID-19. Facemasks have proven to be one of the most effective prophylactic measures to avoid the infection that has made that wearing of facemasks has become mandatory in most of the developed countries. Silver and graphene nanoparticles have proven to have antimicrobial properties and are used as coating of these facemasks to increase the effectivity of the textile fibres. In the case of silver nanoparticles, we have estimated that in a real scenario the systemic (internal) exposure derived from wearing these silver nanoparticle facemasks would be between 7.0 × 10-5 and 2.8 × 10-4 mg/kg bw/day. In addition, we estimated conservative systemic no effect levels between 0.075 and 0.01 mg/kg bw/day. Therefore, we estimate that the chronic exposure to silver nanoparticles derived form facemasks wearing is safe. In the case of graphene, we detected important gaps in the database, especially regarding toxicokinetics, which prevents the derivation of a systemic no effect level. Nevertheless, the qualitative approach suggests that the risk of dermal repeated exposure to graphene is very low, or even negligible. We estimated that for both nanomaterials, the risk of skin sensitisation and genotoxicity is also negligible.

Keywords: COVID-19; Facemasks; Grapheme; Risk assessment; Silver nanoparticles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents / adverse effects*
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control*
  • COVID-19 / virology
  • Female
  • Graphite / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Masks / adverse effects*
  • Masks / virology
  • Metal Nanoparticles / adverse effects*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Risk Assessment
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Silver / adverse effects*


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Silver
  • Graphite