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Int J Environ Res Public Health ; 18(4)2021 02 04.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1063402


The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a broader use of masks by both professionals and the general population. This resulted in a severe worldwide shortage of devices and the need to increase import and activate production of safe and effective surgical masks at the national level. In order to support the demand for testing surgical masks in the Italian context, Universities provided their contribution by setting up laboratories for testing mask performance before releasing products into the national market. This paper reports the effort of seven Italian university laboratories who set up facilities for testing face masks during the emergency period of the COVID-19 pandemic. Measurement set-ups were built, adapting the methods specified in the EN 14683:2019+AC. Data on differential pressure (DP) and bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE) of 120 masks, including different materials and designs, were collected over three months. More than 60% of the masks satisfied requirements for DP and BFE set by the standard. Masks made of nonwoven polypropylene with at least three layers (spunbonded-meltblown-spunbonded) showed the best results, ensuring both good breathability and high filtration efficiency. The majority of the masks created with alternative materials and designs did not comply with both standard requirements, resulting in suitability only as community masks. The effective partnering between universities and industries to meet a public need in an emergency context represented a fruitful example of the so-called university "third-mission".

COVID-19/prevention & control , Laboratories , Masks/standards , Pandemics , Humans , Italy