ASTM stands for the American Society for Testing and Materials and is an organization that establishes and publishes technical standards for many different products, systems and services. The global organization has more than 12,800 standards in use around the world. One of their standards is ASTM F2100-11, which has been the standard for medical face masks since 2012.
ASTM tests to improve quality and safety, and has been long-held as one of the largest standards for the testing of face masks. There are four performance areas that they test and are recognized by the FDA. The four areas are:
These areas of performance and design help determine which setting the mask is best used for, and should be considered prior to selecting a mask. To make the process easier the ASTM has broken barrier protection down to levels:
Level 1 : Best used for low-risk, nonsurgical procedures and exams that do not involve aerosols, sprays or fluids. Can be used for general use and can have ear loops. ASTM level 1 masks are typically the standard for procedural use.
Level 2: Moderate barrier of protection for low-to-moderate levels of aerosols, sprays and fluids.
Level 3: Maximum barrier of protection for situations that have the potential of exposure to heavy levels of aerosols, sprays and fluids. Usually used by OR Staff in sterile environments: closeness of fit protects against fluid transmission.
N95 Repirator: Protection against residual surgical smoke or on patients with known or suspected aerosol transmittable diseases.
Always look at the level of protection that is recommended by the ASTM when choosing a mask, and more importantly that it is approved by the ASTM in the first place. You don’t know when you could be exposed to something, so why would you consider anything but an ASTM-rated mask?
Even the right mask, worn incorrectly could put you at risk. The nose and mouth should be covered completely. Create a seal around the nose and mouth to prevent gaps that could increase the risk of inhalation exposure.
For more information on Level 1 masks, visit our face mask page here.