Thai chemical firm making material for 54 million masks

With doctors and healthcare workers around the world in desperate need of protective masks, Indorama Ventures of Thailand is accelerating the production of a fiber to use in the making of 54 million masks in one month.

“We normally don’t produce this fiber. But because of the coronavirus, we have produced 30 tons so far and will produce another 150 tons over the next 30 days, enough for 54 million masks,” Yash Lohia, the global petrochemical company’s chief recycling officer, told The Nation newspaper.

Facial masks were in short supply in Thailand recently because of the sudden surge in demand, with people lining up at designated government offices to buy them. The shortage has been easing, however. In Asia, demand has been high because people more commonly wear masks when they have a cold or other communicable illness than people do in the West.

The slower spread of the coronavirus in some Asian countries has public health officials in the United States now debating whether they should advise the general public to start wearing masks.

Health experts have said that the masks worn by most members of the public are not the type doctors and healthcare workers need. Those types called N95 masks, provide real protection against viruses. But other types of masks may still give protection in some situations.

Indorama Ventures, or IVL, is the world’s largest manufacturer of PET, a material used in producing plastic bottles. Founded in Bangkok in 1994, the company employs 16,000 people, has revenues over $8 billion, and also produces feedstock, yarns, and fibers, as well as other types of plastics.

The company has won awards for its sustainability reporting. In 2016, Transparency International placed IVL in its top 25 firms for transparency in corporate reporting.

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