Protection against infection
Not with every mask.

Further information can be found at the main association of commercial professional associations.

We know them from TV pictures: Protective masks that cover the mouth and nose, which are intended to protect against infections and are part of the street scene, particularly in Asian countries. In times of bird flu, SARS and influenza, the question of the protective effect of such masks arises more and more frequently in our part of the world.

The BG Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BGIA) has now found that the majority of the mouth and nose protective masks and cloths (MNS) available on the market do not provide adequate protection against airborne infectious agents. Of the16 products that were randomly selected for a study, only three met the essential requirements of DIN EN 149; This European standard defines mandatory performance criteria for respiratory protective devices as used in occupational safety: On the one hand, the permeability of the filter material must not be too high - depending on the protection class, between 2 percent and 22 percent of the maximum concentration of hazardous substances in the air. On the other hand, the mask must fit well to the wearer's face so that leaks do not impair the protective effect of the product. Both together result in what is referred to as the total leakage. "In the case of breathing apparatus, an independent body checks whether these requirements are met," explains Dr. Peter Paszkiewicz, responsible head of the BGIA. “Unfortunately, approval is not required for mouth and nose protection products, so-called surgical masks. We have now investigated whether and how well they are still suitable as respiratory masks. "With the following results: Of 16 products, four passed the filter permeability test and four passed the total leak test. Only three met both requirements equally. "But even where a high-performance filter material is used, up to 90 percent of the particles that are inhaled despite the mask can be attributed to leaks," emphasizes Paszkiewicz. "The shape, flexibility and adaptation of the mask to the face play a very decisive role in the protective effect!" The Federal Ministry of Economics and Labour has already reacted to the results of the BGIA: In its rules and regulations for protection against influenza, it generally recommends wearing respiratory protective equipment or face mask that meets the performance criteria of respiratory protective equipment. To make sure that users can recognise which MNS products this applies to in the future, the BGIA wants to publish a list of positively tested masks. "We hope that the manufacturers will support us and have their products tested," said the health and safety officer. Surgical masks are similar in design to particle-filtering half masks that are intended to protect against swarf or grinding dust at the workplace, for example. It can be assumed that infectious agents behave like inanimate particles in the air, also because viruses and bacteria are usually bound to liquids or dust in practice. From the point of view of occupational safety, there is therefore nothing to prevent the same requirements being placed on surgical masks and being tested under the same conditions as breathing apparatus.

DACH respiratory protection information with FAQ
Occupational exposure limits are an important instrument for protecting employees from risks to their health and safety from hazardous substances.