Testing of protective masks

Respirators, medical face masks and community masks

Requirements for different types of products

Face masks, which can be worn to protect against pathogens such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus, are subject to different standards depending on the product type. Thus, different methods for mask testing are also used for the respective product types. For example, the CWA 17533, which was newly published in 2020, applies to everyday masks, community masks, and makeshift masks. DIN EN 14683 is used for testing medical face masks, and EN149 with EN 13274-7 is used for FFP masks. Each of these test standards defines applicable criteria corresponding to the product type in terms of infection protection. These test specifications define what a mask must achieve in order to exhibit good filtering efficiency while still ensuring sufficient breathability.

Testing of medical protective masks

According to DIN EN 14683, the standard for medical face masks, the two aforementioned requirements are verified by tests for breathability and bacterial filtration performance. Breathability testing measures the pressure required to transport air through the mask. The lower the pressure difference, the easier it is to breathe through the mask.

Bacterial filtration performance is tested in terms of how many bacterial pathogens pass through the face mask. Filtering performance is determined for particle sizes between 0.65 to 7.00 μm - filtering of smaller particle sizes is not checked by this method.

Testing the filter performance with aerosols

In the DIN EN 14683 standard, the above-mentioned order of magnitude is assumed for the droplets with which the pathogens are transmitted: However, the coronavirus has an approximate size of only 0.12 μm and floats in the air surrounded by droplets of different sizes. To date, it is not fully understood to what extent the particle size of an aerosol is related to the transmissibility of such a small pathogen. Therefore, the filtering performance of everyday masks should also be tested with aerosols consisting of smaller particles.

In EN 13274-7, the European standard for determining the transmissibility of particle filters, smaller particle sizes are examined using sodium chloride and kerosene oil. The particle sizes for sodium chloride are between 0.01 μm and 0.50 μm and for kerosene oil between 0.02 μm and 1.00 μm. This test is mandatory, for example, for respirators, i.e. FFP1-3 masks, in the EN149 standard, but is also used for makeshift or community masks based on the new test regulation CWA 17553, which has been in force in Europe since 2020. It is therefore very useful to test not only FFP 1-3 masks but also medical face masks and everyday masks according to EN 13274-7 in order to determine the highest possible quality of filter performance.

Safety for manufacturers, distributors and users of protective masks

The Berlin Cert test laboratory tests different types of masks according to the corresponding standards: Thus, the basic suitability of the most diverse mask types, from everyday masks to medical masks, is determined in a bundled suitability test or, for FFP masks, development-accompanying test. With these tests, users, distributors or those responsible for procuring and distributing face masks receive meaningful results as to whether their own or applied products are safe and have the required effect.

From individual tests to different batch sizes from different batches, we also test custom-made products and prototypes.

We currently offer the following mask tests, which can be ordered individually or as a package:

  • CWA 17553:2020-06 - European standard for community masks.
  • Partial tests from the standard, applicable and required for medical face masks (mouth-nose protection, surgical masks)
  • Partial tests from the standard, applicable and required for respirators (FFP1 - FFP3)
  • Complete test from the standard, applicable for everyday masks, community masks or makeshift masks / DIY masks
  • Breathability and splash resistance according to DIN EN 14683:2019-10
  • Breathing resistance and filter efficiency (passage of the filter medium) according to DIN EN 149:2009-08

Note: Our laboratory tests some of the sections from EN 149. Please note that a complete CE certification of respirators according to EN 149 is currently not possible at Berlin Cert. For this, a notified body for personal protective equipment must be consulted.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the mask tests offered, our test engineers will be happy to assist you and to draw up an individual test plan for you.