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'Get them back!' TN lawmaker wants governor to recall all of the free 'sock-masks'

sock mask distribution 2
Sock maker gets $8 million no-bid contract to make face masks
Posted at 6:11 PM, Jun 02, 2020
and last updated 2021-01-29 23:02:09-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — There are calls now to recall the masks that the state of Tennessee has given away to stop the spread of the Coronavirus.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates first exposed how the so-called sock masks were treated with a known pesticide.

MORE: State suspends distribution of 'sock masks' amid pesticide concerns

The state says the masks are safe. But some state lawmakers say that is not enough.

"We have to admit when we made a mistake and do what’s necessary in order to counter the impact, the effects of that mistake," Representative G.A. Hardaway said.

The Democrat from Memphis said he believes the masks were a mistake. And, now as chair of the Tennessee Legislature's Black Caucus, he's calling on Governor Lee to launch a full investigation.

"We owe it to those who trust us to have their best interests at heart, to know before we we issue this type of equipment and tell you that you’re protected by it," Hardaway explained.

The state bought five million of masks and has been giving them away to Tennesseans.

In early May as they were being rolled out, Governor Lee announced, "Free reusable, washable, cloth masks are available at every state health department."

But as NewsChannel 5 Investigates first revealed, the masks produced by the Renfro company, a North Carolina based sock-maker, were treated with a chemical known as Silvadur, a known pesticide.

When asked Tuesday about the growing concerns, the governor had his health commissioner explain that the state is doing its own independent assessment and has talked with the manufacturer.

"All indications are that it is safe. And it is commonly used in fabrics. But until we get that independent assessment back, we want people to use them at their discretion," Health Commissioner Lisa Piercy shared during the governor's briefing.

Piercy said the state will stop giving out the masks for now.

But Rep. Hardaway said that's not enough.

"Get them back!" he exclaimed.

Hardaway not only called for a full recall, but he wants the state to determine whether those who have worn the masks need further medical treatment, and if so, to provide it free of charge.

Hardaway said he believes many who took advantage of the free masks are disadvantaged and the state let them down. Now, it's time, he said, to make it right.

"We delivered these masks, we, being the state of Tennessee, and the public accepted them in good faith because they trusted us," Hardaway said.

The state spent more than $8-million on the masks.

The manufacturer insists they are safe and says the chemical has been "demonstrated to be harmless to human health when used as intended."