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The challenge

Manufacturers can’t test masks in Australia

Single-use surgical masks used in Australia's hospitals and other health care settings need to meet Australian standards for a 'medical device' to be added to the Australian Register for Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).

Prior to CSIRO gaining accreditation, the very specific tests required to meet Australian standards could only be performed overseas, which was a long and expensive process for manufacturers.

Our response

We pivoted quickly

COVID-19 reached Australia and the demand for masks surged. The local gap in testing became apparent and we moved quickly to assemble an expert team and develop the three tests required for manufacturers to meet Australian standards.

A scientist conducts a Pressure Differential (pressure drop) test to assess breathability by measuring the differential pressure across a mask. ©  Nick Pitsas

But someone had to check we were doing the test correctly. Enter the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA), Australia's laboratory testing authority. NATA conducted a rigorous on-site review of our testing methodology and officially accredited our facility on 3 August 2020.

The tests

  • Synthetic Blood Penetration (ISO 22609:2014) The Synthetic Blood Penetration Test determines how well a mask can act as a barrier against blood-borne pathogens. We spray a volume of synthetic blood at the centre of the mask at high velocity. This measures the mask's ability to stop blood penetrating through the mask.
  • Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (BFE) (EN 14683:2014 Annex B) We conduct BFE testing on face masks made to provide protection against biological aerosols. This test determines whether biological organisms can penetrate the filtration fabric used in a mask.
  • Pressure Differential (EN14683:2014 Annex C) The Differential Pressure test measures the differential pressure of air on either side of the test material. This test determines the breathability of a mask (whether the wearer will be able to breathe comfortably while wearing it).

The results

Keeping our frontline healthcare workers safe

The facility boosts Australia's sovereign capability to produce essential medical supplies more efficiently and at a lower cost. Manufacturers no longer need to go overseas for accredited testing, saving them time and money.

The development supports local manufacturers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, we also tested and scaled up potential vaccines, used data to model and predict virus spread, and tested wastewater for traces of the virus.

Face Mask Testing Facility

[Music plays and an image appears of a female wearing protective clothing and a face mask and the CSIRO logo and text appears: Around the world face masks are helping protect frontline health workers against the spread of COVID-19]

[Image changes to show a female putting on a face mask and text appears on the right of the screen: But how can we be sure that these face masks are safe, effective and fit-for-purpose?]

[Image changes to show a CSIRO Main Entrance sign and the camera pans up the sign from the bottom to the top and text appears on the left: We’ve opened Australia’s first accredited testing facility for single use surgical face masks]

[Image changes to show a female placing a face mask inside a testing machine and text appears on the left: Our fully accredited facility tests surgical masks and mask materials for…]

[Image changes to show a close view of a male researcher looking down and text appears: Breathability – can the wearer breathe comfortably?]

[Image changes to show a close view of the testing machine and then the image changes to show the face mask in the testing machine and blood appearing on the mask and text appears on the left: Blood penetration – can the mask stop blood penetrating through]

[Image changes to show a researcher syringing liquid into a test tube inside a machine and text appears on the left: And Bacterial filtration efficiency – can biological organisms penetrate the filtration fabric?]

[Image changes to show a female placing a mask onto a stack of masks and text appears on the right: The testing facility will enable Australian manufacturers to meet the needs of frontline health workers]

[Image changes to show a male health worker wearing a face mask and text appears: It’s another way we’re helping Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic]

[Image changes to show the CSIRO logo and text on a white background: CSIRO, Australia’s National Science Agency]

Our new facility is ready for face mask testing to ensure Aussie-made masks are up to standard.

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We've opened Australia’s first accredited single-use surgical face mask testing facility.

For more information about the new face mask testing facility please contact us.

Get information the new face mask testing facility

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