Respirator and surgical mask testing

In view of the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus we decided to publish a short recap about proper personal protection equipment and their standardized testing methods.

Surgical masks and respirators are used by many for professional as well as personal applications. Both devices protect its wearer from hazardous factors and environments while the focus of what to protect against is quite different. Consequently the test procedures for both products are laid out in different international standards, such as EN 14683 or ASTM F2100 for surgical masks and EN 143/149, ISO 16900 or NIOSH for respirators. In the following we present a short overview and highlight some key differences in these standards.

Healthcare is the most common area of application for surgical masks, as their name suggests. They are intended as single-use products for a particular task and not as general protective devices for extended periods. Consequently, the standardized tests include resistance to blood splatter, bacterial filtration efficiency and respiratory resistance measurements. The ASTM standard also defines particle filtration efficiency tests with monodisperse solid PSL (polystyrene latex) particles.

Respirators on the other hand are designed for extended use periods in various industries. They are available in different filtration efficiencies and geometries to provide a good fit for each wearer. Testing requires a rigorous sampling of filtration efficiencies at various particle sizes to determine the most sensitive size. All test parameters are precisely defined in the standards and enable easy comparisons between different manufacturers.

Shifting recommendations

While respirators are not originally designed for medical applications they have become more common in highly contagious environments. The EN 14683 recommends that if the mask shall “protect the wearer against infective agents (bacteria, viruses or fungi), the use of a respirator device should be considered.”. This recommendation is also elaborated in a detailed article by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), especially with regard to novel influenza viruses such as H1N1 or the recently discovered Coronavirus COVID-19. Respirators of class N95 (95 % efficiency) or higher are recommended when in close contact to affected individuals.

Rely on our expertise

Lorenz Meßgerätebau has years of experience in manufacturing test equipment for respirators. Our latest addition to the line of products, the FMP04, is an automated system for filters, masks, respirators or cassette filters according to EN 143/149, ISO 16900-3 and NIOSH CFR 42 part 84. It measures filtration efficiency and pressure loss (in- and exhalation) for respirators or cassette filters in a single run. Each test’s results are stored in auto-generated reports.

Feel free to contact us for more information about our machines and how they can assist you in assuring your product quality.