Face masks and respirators in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic: An overview of the standards and testing methods

Parnia Forouzandeh, Kris O'Dowd, Suresh C. Pillai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Citations (Scopus)


The COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) throughout the world. This shortage has resulted in an increase in production of PPE to meet the demand, and as a result, several substandard equipment has entered the market. With face masks and respirators now beginning to see widespread use throughout the world, the standards and test with which they are required to undertake have become points of interest. The filtration efficiency of the masks is a key testing element that examines its ability to filter particles, bacteria and viruses; this examines the penetration efficiency percentage of each with lower results being preferable. Masks are also subjected to NaCl testing method, which allows a range of particle sizes to be examined and their penetration to be observed. The masks must also show considerable resistance to fluids and flames, to prevent the penetration of liquids and to be non-flammable. Various PPE testing protocols such as biological, chemical, fluid and flame resistances, protective ensemble, facepiece fit testing, NIOSH NaCl method and impact protection have been discussed. In addition, various tests involving bacterial and viral filtration efficiencies are also discussed. Differential pressure is examined to ascertain the comfort, airflow and breathability of the masks, whilst fit testing is examined to ensure a correct fit of the mask.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104995
JournalSafety Science
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (BFE)
  • Corona Virus Legislations
  • Facemasks
  • NIOSH NaCl method
  • Particulate filtration efficiency (PFE)
  • Respirators
  • SARS-cov-2
  • Testing methods
  • Viral Filtration Efficiency (VFE)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Safety Research
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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