‘Anti-virus activewear’ comes under fire

As reported by ABC’s Triple J Hack on Wednesday 15 July 2020, Australian activewear brand, Lorna Jane, has come under fire for promoting its new line of tops and leggings – ‘Lorna Jane Shield Anti-Bacterial Activewear’ – as having the ability to protect “wearers against viruses and bacteria”.

It is reported that earlier this month the company launched its ‘LJ Shield exclusive technology’, which the company claims is a “chemical-free shield that prevents and protects against odour causing bacteria and mould”.

According the Lorna Jane website, ‘LJ Shield’ is “sprayed onto the fabric as a lightweight mist and permanently adheres to [the] surface of the material to act as a shield of protection”.

The website adds that the “LJ Shield breaks through the membrane shell of bacteria or germs that come into contact with it, not only killing that microbe but preventing it from multiplying into anymore”, claiming that “any bacteria that comes in contact with the fabric is terminated when it comes in touch with the LJ Shield particles”.

However, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has questioned the promotion of ‘Anti-virus Activewear’ by the company.

“Active wear is great for the gym, but it can’t protect you against viruses or bacteria, I suspect Lorna Jane are cynically trying to exploit fears concerning the COVID-19 pandemic to sell clothes,” says RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon.

“If you spray their product onto any fabric and expect that it will act as a ‘shield of protection’ for you by breaking through the ‘membrane shell of any toxic diseases’ I have some bad news for you – this will not happen.

“The only thing that will be ‘terminated’ by the ‘shield particles’ is the money in your bank account.”

Dr Nespolon adds that during the COVID-19 pandemic it’s imperative to follow the advice of health experts.

“The real problem with marketing products like this is that it can lull people into a false sense of security and make them less likely to wash their hands regularly, socially distance or wear a mask where distancing is impractical.

“That is why we have very strict laws concerning therapeutic claims.

“It is timely to remind this company that earlier this year former celebrity chef and prominent anti-vaxxer, Pete Evans, was fined $25,000 by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for marketing a $15,000 ‘light frequency machine’ … that could supposedly treat [COVID-19].”

Dr Nespolon reiterates that the only measures that have been shown to protect against COVID-19, include:

  • Regular hand washing and keeping them away from your face (your mouth and nose in particular);
  • Socially distancing;
  • Wearing a mask where distancing is not possible.

“Please listen to the medical experts, not clothing companies,” implores Dr Nespolon.

Lorna Jane responds to the allegations

According to ragtrader in response to the above allegations, Lorna Jane has issued a statement saying that “the [LJ Shield] technology isn’t new, and tests have shown that it is effective in reducing bacteria”, adding that “it is in the process of getting the technology tested in Australia”.

“We are not trying to profiteer in any way on the fear around COVID-19 because we were developing this and working with our partners on this before the outbreak, and are not charging our customers for this technology,” says the company.

“The health and wellness of our customers and our people have always been a priority for us.

“We started out over two years ago working on a solution to solve the issues around germs/contamination of garments in our retail stores and to minimise the skin to garment contact through the manufacturing process, delivery and our in-store experience.”

The brand adds that they first launched their “First Wear initiative in 2017 and the LJ Shield is the next evolution”, adding that the “LJ Shield is not a new technology”.

“Our lab partner, Fuse Biotech in Taiwan and the USA have been using it to spray hard surfaces in gyms to protect equipment and fitness areas from bacteria that feeds on sweat.

“[The technology has also been used] within the hospitality industry to protect guests from harmful pathogens that reside on uncommonly cleaned areas such as remote controls, light switches and on bedding to protect from bed bugs, for years now.

“Testing conducted by Intertek in Taiwan who conduct total quality assurance testing, inspecting and certification services proved a 99.99% reduction of bacteria on the fabric tested that used this technology,” says Lorna Jane.

“It is in for FDA approval and we are in the works of getting it tested by local Australian testing authorities – the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA), the National Measurement Institute (NMI) and RMIT University textile testing.

“We are not saying that LJ Shield will stop you coming into contact with bacteria, [but] we are saying LJ Shield is an added protection like hand sanitiser but for the clothes you wear.”

It will be interesting to see if, once it undergoes further testing, this technology is found to be effective in reducing exposure to bacteria and viruses, and Retail Pharmacy Assistants will continue to follow the story.

For now, the best advice around COVID-19 precautions is to follow the recommendations made by health professionals, in this ever-evolving global health crisis.