Your Mask's Lab Tests: What They Mean & Why They Matter

Your Mask's Lab Tests: What They Mean & Why They Matter

We test our products a lot.

For us, innovation and testing go hand in hand. A product is only as good as the results that we can obtain in the lab. If it doesn’t work there, we say it doesn’t work anywhere.

When it came to our masks, we made sure to RIGOROUSLY validate every version because your health is at stake. Testing is the only way to know how effective a mask is. So for our masks, we sent samples to several independent testing laboratories to perform tests.

We’ll show you some tests that we ran and why testing makes all the difference.

Why you should look for a lab-tested mask

The only way to know how well a mask can protect you (or others) is to test it for the filtration efficiency. There are several tests that should be run to determine this. We will break down each test for you and give an example of the lab results that we obtained from the Air Mask 2.0 with an N95 filter -

In particular, there are three tests that you should look for:

Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (BFE) - This test measures the mask’s resistance to bacterial penetration. Basically, higher test results equal better barrier protection. These tests normally test against Staphylococcus aureus with a particle size between 2-3 µm. Ideally, we would want this filtration to be > 95%.

bfe

Here you can see that the Air Mask 2.0 was able to filter out > 99.9% of bacteria across 5 different samples that were tested.

Viral Filtration Efficiency (VFE) - This test measures the mask’s material for resistance to virus penetration. Normally, this is evaluated with a bacteriophage and a particle size between 2-3 µm. Look for a filtration efficiency > 95%.

vfe

Here you can see that the Air Mask 2.0 was able to filter out > 99.8% of virus particles across 5 different samples that were tested.

Particle Filtration Efficiency (PFE) - This test studies “nonviable particle retention or filtration efficiency of filter media and other filtration devices at sub-micron levels.”

All this jargon means is that this test measures how well your mask is able to filter out very small particles. Usually, this refers to either particles that are 0.1 or 0.3 µm in size. To give you some perspective, a naked COVID-19 molecule is 0.06 - 0.14 µm in size. Once again, look for a filtration efficiency > 95%.

pfe

We ran our PFE test with Intertek using a particle size of 0.1 µm. From this test, you can see that the Air Mask 2.0 was able to filter out > 98% of 0.1 µm particles across 5 different samples that were tested.

By using one or all of the above test variables, and shopping for a mask that has its test results listed, you can shop for a mask knowing exactly how it was tested and how it measures up against the market’s best masks.

Not all masks are created equal

There are many, many different kinds of masks available today and they all have varying levels of efficacy. And yes, all of them come with pros and cons. Many masks that are available today have not been tested to determine how well they can protect the user.

Here is a quick summary of how various cloth masks, neck gaiters, masks with valves, N95 masks, and more compare to each other in terms of efficacy.

Cloth masks

Cloth masks are indeed helpful, but they don’t hold a candle to an N95 mask, for example. According to a report published by the CDC, “In 2015, we conducted a randomized controlled trial to compare the efficacy of cloth masks with that of medical masks and controls (standard practice) among healthcare workers in Vietnam. Rates of infection were consistently higher among those in the cloth mask group than in the medical mask and control groups.”

Not only that, but cloth masks tend to slip under the nose or off of the ear. Additionally, they don’t conform to the wearer’s face as an N95 mask would.

Scarf/ski mask/neck gaiter

For those considering the use of a scarf/ski mask/neck gaiter as a mask, this is not, in fact, an adequate substitute.

According to a study done by Duke University, We tested 14 commonly available masks or mask alternatives, one patch of mask material, and a professionally fit-tested N95 mask...We noticed that speaking through some masks (particularly the neck gaiter) seemed to disperse the largest droplets into a multitude of smaller droplets. Considering that smaller particles are airborne longer than large droplets (larger droplets sink faster), the use of such a mask might be counterproductive.”

Additionally, no matter if you’re wearing an N95 mask or a cloth mask, it is no substitute for social distancing.

Masks with Valves

We’ve talked about this one before. The ineffectiveness of masks with valves is already well-known, but there are even more new data to back that up. According to that same Duke University study, “the performance of the valved N95 mask is likely affected by the exhalation valve, which opens for strong outwards airflow. While the valve does not compromise the protection of the wearer, it can decrease the protection of persons surrounding the wearer. In comparison, the performance of the fitted, non-valved N95 mask was far superior.”

N95 Respirators and Surgical Masks

N95 respirators and surgical masks are heavily validated in order to gain approval from NIOSH or the FDA. Both of them have to obtain 95% filtration of 0.1 μm particles (PFE).

Other scientific studies have also validated the efficacy of these masks. In that Duke University study, N95 respirators were also tested. The results showed that N95’s transmitted 0.1 percent of droplets. For context, the neck gaiter transmitted droplets at 110 percent relative to the control trials.

N95 respirators and surgical masks provide high levels of protection for yourself and for others but they are NOT reusable.

New Covid-19 variants + vaccine reinforce the importance of mask-wearing

We’ve previously discussed the new variants of Covid-19 that have begun to circulate and how it relates to the vaccine. But regardless of both the new Covid-19 variants and the vaccine, mask-wearing still matters. Here’s why.

For starters, both the Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer vaccine take four full weeks to build up to 95 percent effectiveness.

Not only that, but according to NPR, “Before approving the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, the FDA asked the vaccine manufacturers only whether their products protect people from COVID-19 symptoms. They didn't ask if the vaccines stop people who've been vaccinated from nevertheless spreading the virus to others.”

So, as of right now, we’re essentially collecting the data on the effectiveness of the vaccine in real-time. And if you’re not 100 percent sure that you’re protected, you should act like you’re not protected; i.e. still wear masks and practice social distancing.

And if you’re reading this article, we don’t have to tell you why wearing your mask will protect you against the new variants of Covid-19. This is a virus that is still evolving and mutating every day, with every new transmission. So the best thing we can do for ourselves and our community is to wear masks and to wear ones that have been proven for effectiveness. 


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