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Desert in Dark

Comparing test methods for respirators, medical masks and barrier face covering to improvised methods used during COVID-19

The masks used to protect against COVID-19 have varied widely. There are 3 main categories. NIOSH approved respirators, Medical masks (ASTM method and FDA requirements) and face coverings (not currently covered by any standard). These are tested to different standards and methods. There has recently been an effort to standardize how these devices are tested. In this talk I will describe the different test methods and the changes that are occurring to standardize at least some aspects of how the testing is done.

Within the ASTM standards there is a proposal out for ballot to adopt a version of the NIOSH respirator test method for PFE (particulate filter efficiency) testing in place of the method of using PSL particles and optical particle counters that has been used until now. I will give an update on the status of that proposed change. There is also an ASTM task group working on a standard for testing barrier face coverings for use by the general public. It is unknown what the status of this effort will be by the time of this workshop but I will discuss the status. If this proposal does become a standard it will create a category of face coverings that have the potential to be significantly better in terms of source control and protection for the user compared to the many products that have been in use during the pandemic.

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