Medical face masks and respirators have taken the spotlight during the current pandemic. With the increased emphasis on wearing of face coverings an understanding of the testing required for approval of these products is imperative. An understanding of the difference between these two products and the test methods used to prove compliance is important for choosing the appropriate product to ensure the right mask is used for each purpose. Test methods can range from simple air differential tests to complicated bacterial filtration efficiency tests; each of these tests gives important information about the functionality of the product.
Medical face masks are manufactured and tested with the patient in mind, and testing demonstrates this. Testing for these products is directed toward expected conditions in a medical environment, and includes bacterial filtration efficiency testing, flammability testing, and synthetic blood penetration testing. NIOSH approved respirators are generally used in industrial settings and are meant to protect the user. Testing for these products focuses more on expected conditions when protection is needed from small particulates.