Inside Australia's first accredited face mask testing facility


Tuesday, 25 August, 2020

Inside Australia's first accredited face mask testing facility

CSIRO has officially launched Australia’s first accredited surgical face mask testing facility in Melbourne, in an effort to help frontline health workers in the fight against COVID-19 while supporting Australian business.

Accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA), the new facility has the capacity to provide a rapid turnaround on surgical face mask testing, helping manufacturers fast-track the supply of masks for frontline healthcare workers.

To gain NATA accreditation, the facility underwent rigorous on-site assessments to ensure it could provide tests that show single-use surgical masks adequately filter biological particles, resist against blood penetration and enable the wearer to breathe comfortably. Manufacturers that pass all three tests will meet both Australian and international standards and can be registered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.

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

“It’s inspiring to see Australian science enabling Australian businesses to supply life-saving surgical face masks to protect our frontline healthcare workers — yet another way science is tackling the COVID-19 pandemic,” said CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall.

“Science is guiding us through COVID-19, and science will help us grow on the other side. There’s not much Aussie innovation can’t solve, whether it’s finding the right vaccine or creating Australia’s first NATA-accredited face mask testing facility.”

A scientist performs a bacteria filtration efficiency (BFE) test by measuring ability to filter a microbiological aerosol. Image ©Nick Pitsas.

Manufacturers can use test results obtained at the CSIRO facility to demonstrate that the performance of their medical masks is suitable for supplying Australian hospitals, as well as contributing to the global pandemic response. Queensland manufacturer Evolve Group, for example, said the facility will help the company get its masks to where they’re needed faster.

“Using CSIRO’s Australian testing facility means we don’t have to ship our masks overseas, which saves us time and money,” said Evolve’s Managing Director, Ty Hermans.

“Testing our face masks at CSIRO’s facility aligns with our goal to bolster Australia’s sovereign manufacturing capability and not have to rely on overseas facilities.

“Evolve Group is confident in the product we have designed and we’re now looking forward to CSIRO testing our masks to ensure they meet stringent Australian standards and can provide critical protection to frontline workers.”

Top image caption: A scientist performs a blood penetration test by testing masks for resistance to synthetic blood penetration. Image ©Nick Pitsas.

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