A respiratory protection mask proved to have excellent values and to provide good protection against the Corona virus is being recalled. Other masks, however, allowing the majority of aerosols in the virus-relevant range to pass through, are allowed to be continued to be sold.This sounds like a bad joke. Unfortunately, it is by far not. Once again, the failings of the EN 149 standard - and those of the German "mask politics" - are clearly demonstrated here.
The good ones go into the bin, the bad ones still remain on the market
Although there are still a lot of bad masks circulating in Germany that have been officially tested and found to be good, other reputed manufacturers have to recall their masks. And this despite the fact that the masks have been tested several times and found to be excellent with regard to virus protection.
A particular example is the mask manufacturer Univent, where an official testing institute discovered " small deviations" during subsequent tests of the Atemious Pro type mask. The significant fact is in this case that these inspections took place already in February 2021. If there had been a danger, the mask authority would have left the population unaware of this danger for five months.
Palas tests "failed" masks and awards top marks
As an expert in the field of aerosol technology, Palas GmbH has quite often been consulted as an independent expert to test masks. Moreover, we have been testing masks and filter materials not just since the beginning of the pandemic. With high-precision test equipment, we examine, for example, the permeability of the filter material, i.e. how many particles in the size range of aerosols contaminated with viruses are retained. More than 40% of the masks tested failed ourtests - even FFP2 masks that correspond to the official EN 149 standard. The Atemious Pro is one of the masks which has performed the best so far. Therefore, what went wrong?
Standard for occupational safety is not a standard for virus protection
EN149 is an official, technical standard for occupational health and safety, intended for construction workers, painters or similar professions. It is intended to protect them from toxic substances in varnishes, paints, etc. However, it was not developed or adjusted for the protection against infections.
What exactly is the content of this standard?
The standard states that only 6% of particles may pass through the filter. However, not all particles are equal. There exist large particles and tiny particles. This is where the problem arises: the EN149 standard allows testing with different particle sizes, which means that the measurements of different testing institutes are not comparable. A mask may pass one official test institute and fail another. That is exactly how the mask of Univent has failed. In this case, the same testing institute came to different results. It is even more bitter that, according to our measurements, Univent not only complies with current standards, but with production-integrated quality assurance and constant research, the high level of protection is comprehensively tested and improved.
Need for change?
There is a clear lack of standards according to which testing must be carried out so that something like this cannot happen. The EN 149 standard urgently needs to be adapted - It is bad enough that the political decision-makers have still not done anything about this a year and a half after the start of the pandemic. A new test standard could be drawn up in a few weeks and could also be enacted by the Infection Protection Act.
German manufacturers have now helped themselves and, together with a publicly appointed and sworn expert, have created a reliable and reproducible quality label (CCF (Corona Certified Filter)). This is specifically designed to show the protective effect of particle-filtering half masks.
The Atemious Pro mask produced by the Univent reveals the entire schizophrenia of German mask politics. Our political decision-makers manage to impose several lockdowns and spend vast amounts of money on useless masks. But they don't manage to end the mask chaos, although it would be that easy.
Dr Maximilian Weiß, CEO of Palas GmbH