What is the new ASTM 3502 standard?
In February 2021, ASTM issued the first voluntary standard directed at face coverings intended to apply to the public. Previously, ASTM standards had only addressed medical masks. The goal of the standard was to provide Origin of the Standard to provide a consistent way to benchmark products to inform user selection decisions and to define performance requirements for source control and protective capability of barrier face coverings.
The standard requires reporting on two classifications for Filtration and Breathability:
- Level 1: Low Performance
- Filtration of at least 20% of particles smaller than a micron
- Breathability (air flow resistance) less than or equal to 15 millimeters of water column
- Level 2: High Performance
- Filtration of at least 50% of particles smaller than a micron
- Breathability (air flow resistance) less than or equal to 5 millimeters of water column
To meet the standard, masks must be tested by an independent third-party lab. The products that meet the standard can state that they meet ASTM F3502. Aries Work Week Barrier Face Coverings p rovide Level 2 (High) performance on both filtration and breathability.
Note: ASTM does not “certify” masks. If you see a mask that claims ASTM certification, you most likely are not dealing with a true ASTM-compliant mask.
Why is that important?
When you take a trip to the beach, you want to know how much protection your sunscreen provides to prevent you from burning. If you get an SPF 50 sunscreen, you have a good idea how much protection you will get. The same idea goes for the ASTM 3502-compliant barrier face coverings—it takes the guesswork out of the decision-making process and provides a baseline standard for judging performance of filtration and breathability for your workers.
What is sub-micron filtration efficiency?
Sub-micron particulate filtration efficiency measures the ability of a barrier face covering to capture aerosolized particles smaller than one micron, expressed as a percentage of a known number of particles that do not pass the barrier face covering at a given face velocity for flat samples or flow rate for whole article testing.
What does that mean? Effectiveness of the barrier face covering at blocking particulates from leaving the face covering or entering the mouth and nose of the wearer. Higher filtration efficiency indicates that fewer particles pass through the product. Usually as filtration rates rise, breathability and comfort decline.
What is air resistance or breathability?
Airflow resistance is the degree to which a product worn over the wearer’s nose and mouth restricts the ability of the wearer to inhale and exhale (also referred to as breathing resistance).
What does this mean? It is indicative of the ease of breathing while wearing the barrier face covering; lower resistances indicate more breathable products. Users need to ask what good is high filtration if it is unbreathable and cannot be worn for 8 hours without tugging and pulling? Usually, as breathability improves, filtration declines.
What is a Barrier Face Covering?
A Barrier Face Covering is worn on the face, specifically covering at least the wearer’s nose and mouth, with the primary purpose of providing source control (protect the public) to contain the wearer’s respiratory secretions to help prevent the transmission from infected individuals. Secondarily, it also provides a degree of particulate filtration to reduce the amount of inhaled particulate matter.
What is the difference between Surgical Masks, KN95s, N95s and N95 Respirators?
Surgical Mask, Medical Masks, Medical Procedure Masks are meant to protect the wearer from blood and bodily fluids during medical procedures as well as serve as source control (protect the public). They are considered medical devices and must follow ASTM F2100 specifications to help ensure the masks meet certain fluid barrier protection standards.
N95 Consumer Respirators are meant to protect the wearer from inhalation and hazardous contaminants. They must be approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) that they meet filtration efficiency per 42 CFR 84.181.
K95 Masks are a type of filtering facepiece respirator that are commonly made in China or Korea and like N95 masks, are designed to protect the wearer from outside inhalation contaminants. K95 masks must meet requirements like those set by CDC’s NIOSH for respirators. BE AWARE: About 60% of KN95 masks in the United States are counterfeit (fake) and do not meet NIOSH requirements.
NIOSH N95 Surgical Respirators are personal protective equipment (PPE) designed to protect the wearer from inhalation of hazardous contaminants. An N95 used in a health care setting is a class II device regulated by the FDA under 21 CFR 878.4040 (FDA product code MSH) and must be approved by the NIOSH that it meets filtration efficiency level per 42 CFR 84.181. They also must have annual Fit Tests for the individual wearer.
What is Aries Captur™?
Working with leaders of filtration polymers, we created Captur, a new bicomponent spun bond material that can serve as an effective barrier face covering.
Most medical masks depend on a layer of meltblown fabric that includes an electrostatic charge that catches small particulates as they travel through the mask. The unique manufacturing process of making Captur adds an electrostatic charge, cutting out the need for a meltblown layer, which has been such a huge block in the supply chain for making masks during the pandemic. Masks made from the Captur material are also more durable, lasting up to five days / 40 hours of wear, significantly reducing waste.
What about the sustainability of Aries Barrier Face Coverings?
Captur material includes biocomponents of Ingeo™ biopolymer from NatureWorks, an active partner in the development of our materials. Using technology, NatureWorks turns greenhouse gases into a portfolio of performance materials called Ingeo.
Compared to other petrochemical-based plastics and fibers, the production of Ingeo uses 63% less Greenhouse Gas emissions and the energy use of non-renewable resources is 48% less. By adding Ingeo to Captur, we not only make the materials softer and more durable but also reduces our carbon footprint.
How do I ensure I am getting the best fit with my mask?
Ensuring that masks fit well on the face is particularly important to help prevent getting and spreading COVID-19. A common problem with some masks is that there can sometimes be gaps between the mask and the mask wearer’s face.
- First, make sure you are putting your mask on correctly.
- The Aries BFC can be worn on either side, but we recommend you wear it with the ASTM label side facing outward.
- Make sure you are tightening the nose-wire snuggly to your nose bridge.
- If your ear loops feel loose:
- a simple twist or two between the mask and your ear will tighten the fit.
- The “knot and tuck” method will also work.
- Mask Fitters and Braces: devices that can be used over a mask to help to reduce air leakage from around the edges of the mask. For the firmest fit, we recommend adding a face brace such as
Sometimes I get hot inside a mask--Is this bad?
Wearing a face mask increases facial temperature and humidity — near one of the more sensitive parts of the body. Moisture trapped in your facemask can be uncomfortable but there may be a silver lining. Researchers from the NIH have found that the humidity created inside a mask may help to combat respiratory diseases such as COVID19. This article does a nice job of explaining the study and its findings: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/researchers-propose-humidity-masks-may-lessen-severity-covid-19
What if I have a beard?
While the CDC does not ban beards from the ASTM standard, they do have a very comprehensive infographic on what facial hair is compatible with facial coverings: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/pdfs/facialhairwmask11282017-508.pdf