A face mask product developed by a Kiwi company using New Zealand wool is now under extremely high demand globally.
Farmers contracted to Carrfields Primary Wool (CP Wool) are supplying specialist-breed New Zealand Astino wool to air filter producer Lanaco, which uses it as the key ingredient in a vast range of air filtration applications.
Lanaco's protective face masks which feature its "Helix" wool air filters have now received a huge surge in demand since the global Covid-19 outbreak began, the company says.
It only started making face masks last year following significant research and development work, and is now struggling to keep up with global demand for the product, chief executive Nick Davenport said.
"There is unprecedented demand worldwide for any type of respiratory protection at the moment. We are producing our face masks in the greatest volume we can, but we currently can't keep".
Not all face masks are created equal and the wool filter in Lanaco's product put it head and shoulders above the rest, Davenport said.
"Natural wool fibre has amazing capabilities which synthetics can't match. Wool is the world's most positively-charged fibre, which translates to an electrostatic filter which acts as a magnet to capture a whole range of particles in the air. It's naturally bacteria-static, so germs don't remain on it and it naturally absorbs toxins".
As well as a high level of material capture (including viral particles and air pollutants like bushfire smoke), the face masks also have low breathing resistance, which is a very important factor, Davenport said.
"Many face masks on the market are difficult to breathe naturally through, so people aren't comfortable when wearing them. Our masks are two to three times easier to breathe through than other products, so they are easy to wear".
Colin McKenzie, chief executive of CP Wool, said the company's partnership with Lanaco was a fantastic example of how the versatility and quality of natural wool could be showcased through innovative product development.
"Wool is a highly versatile natural fibre which is being used in more and more applications in both consumer and industrial sectors. With an increasing number of environmentally-aware consumers now actively avoiding synthetic fibres, it's fantastic to be working with a company like Lanaco which is championing the value and benefits of wool".
Natural wool was sustainable, compostable and naturally resistant to bacteria growth, which made it ideal for use in healthcare applications such as face masks, McKenzie said.
"Wool fibres are naturally equipped to manage moisture levels, which prevents the build-up of bacteria. Wool is also naturally fire resistant and, of course, biodegradable – making it a highly superior and versatile product".
While Lanaco mainly operates in the business-to-business market, its face masks are now available to consumers via selected pharmacies, healthcare providers and airport duty free stores around the world, Davenport said.