For more than two months, various measures have been taken worldwide to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. One of them is the mandatory use of mouth-nose protection masks also in everyday situations. As the supply of personal protective equipment and products for hospital and healthcare facilities was far from sufficient at the onset of the pandemic, companies having the required technical infrastructure quickly began producing them. In March the required European Standards were already made available for free. The French standardization body AFNOR additionally drew up free guidance on mouth-nose masks that can also be used by individual citizens.
Meanwhile, many creative variants of mouth-nose masks have emerged – but how well do they fulfil their purpose? France as well as Ireland, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Italy and Switzerland already produced national guidelines under the pressure of urgency. Kerstin Jorna, Director General for Internal Market and Industry at the European Commission, requested the standardization organizations in May to share their experiences and input them into a common European document to be published as soon as possible – the deadline set is 15 June 2020.
Managed by AFNOR, the project was kicked off on 26 May. The next three weeks will be shaped by European co-operation and joint assessments of filtration materials, test methods and much more. Another aspect that differs for each mask type and may well involve considerable costs is the life cycle. Whether a mask is intended for single use or whether it can be re-used and how many washing cycles it will survive – all that makes a difference. And how are masks to be handled when it comes to waste disposal or recycling?
With regard to the approach taken, Rim Chaouy, AFNOR’s project manager, reported at the project’s launch, “The European working group will be co-ordinated digitally only because it is, of course, impossible that all the participating experts meet in one place given the current situation.” Alain Costes, Director of AFNOR, adds, “It is a real first and a challenge to finalize a European document within just three weeks. We want to demonstrate to our ecosystem and the general public that we are able to quickly produce useable documents and respond to urgent problems.”
Stephen Russell, Secretary-General of ANEC, the “European consumer voice in standardization”, explicitly welcomes this project: “It is important that consumers can rely on the safety of the masks and face protections they buy or produce themselves. As it is mandatory to wear masks on public transport and in schools in several European countries, the development of a European ‘standard light’ is useful. It helps consumers practice the principle of ‘I protect you and you protect me’.”
The result will be published and made available for free downloading after 15 June 2020.
UPDATE 18th of June 2020: Free download!