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Sub-standard masks cause allergic reactions, removed from use

The masks were taken out of use after workers reported allergic reactions. 

Huoltovarmuuskeskuksen välittämä kuva hengityssuojaimista Etelä-Suomessa sijaitsevassa varmuusvarastossa.
Protective masks in storage at the National Emergency Supply Agency. Masks in image not related to the items mentioned in the story. Image: Huoltovarmuuskeskus

A consignment of masks from China - the procurement of which prompted the resignation of the stockpile boss who agreed to buy them - has made healthcare workers ill in some areas of the country and the protective gear has now been withdrawn from use at care facilities in North Savo, according to local authorities.

Healthcare officials in the region said they withdrew the masks from use on Wednesday after it was revealed they caused allergic reactions among staff who used them.

"The masks caused allergic reactions on the skin in other regions, so we did not use any of them," said Leila Pekkanen of the region's local health authority.

The masks are from the same consignment that arrived from China which failed stringent tests for use in hospitals.

The national stockpile agency was on Friday afternoon trying to ascertain how widely the masks had been taken into use, and telling local authorities not to use them until the cause of the allergic reactions had been determined.

NBI investigating €10m deal

Meanwhile it emerged on Friday that the National Bureau of Investigation was looking into the purchase. They suspect aggravated fraud involving the 10-million-euro purchase.

"At this stage we are focused on the recovery of funds," said Superintendent Tomi Taskila of the NBI. "This has been hugely helped by the fact that the money laundering investigation unit froze more than two million euros of funds in Finnish accounts last week."

The NBI declined to elaborate on whom they were investigating.

Tomi Lounema resigned as managing director of the country's stockpile agency late last week after it emerged that stringent tests on the masks showed they were not suitable for hospital use.

The agency reportedly purchased the protective gear from Tiina Jylhä, a beauty entrepreneur and reality TV personality, and Onni Sarmaste, a payday lender. Only a portion of the purchased masks and respirators were delivered.

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