The American Society for Testing and Material, an international technical standards organization, has published the first national standard for consumer masks.
The standards outline things like minimum fit, design, performance and testing requirements for face masks and would require user instructions, package labeling and a permanent tag on the product.
ASTM said it hopes it creates a baseline for quality and protection moving forward.
“This standard brings value by specifying minimum design, performance, and testing requirements and allowing comparison of products by end users where current guidelines have been limited,” the approved ASTM standard reads.
To be certified as meeting the standards, manufacturers are required to test their facial coverings in accredited labs to certify performance, register their products and use the outlined labeling system to use the ASTM package labeling system.
How this impacts you: Consumers in stores would be able to evaluate the quality of masks on store shelves from the labeling on the packaging. If a mask has ASTM labeling, it could ensure the customer that product has met the testing and quality requirements outlined in “ASTM F3502."
The ASTM standard labeling requirements indicate results of two testing criteria: breathability and filtration efficiency. Typically, when a mask has a higher filtration, it results in more resistance and can make it harder to breathe.
According to the ASTM guidelines, a lower performance, level one designation would require the product to filter at least 20% of particles – something that would make the mask easy to breathe through, but that would provide less protection. A level two certification would designate high performance filtration of at least 50% of particles but would provide less breathability.
The standards strictly prohibit the use of vents, valves or any feature that allows people to blow out or breathe in unfiltered air.