What is the difference between Level 1, 2 and 3 Face Masks? 

Choosing the right type of face mask has never been more crucial than now, and although large quantities of quality face masks may be hard to source, it’s important not to simply select the cheapest, or those available in the largest quantities. Take your time to find one that is the right grade for your application, to ensure you get the safest and most relevant protection possible.

Surgical face masks are generally graded through ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials), which publishes the technical standards for products, materials, systems and the likes. There are currently around 12,000 ASTM standards in use worldwide.

Not all masks are graded so make sure you check that your product of choice has an ASTM grade or is from a reputable manufacturer. This will ensure you are comfortable that you have the appropriate level of protection, and thus minimizing the risk in your workspace, whether it be surgery, pathology, or research. Ensure you find masks which have the ASTM level printed on the box, with the level of fluid resistance (see table below) shown. 

 

Which mask is which?

As per the test results, masks are rated numerically, on the barrier performance of the material.

  1. Level One: Low barrier protection. Only for general use, not used for aerosols, spray or fluids.

  2. Level Two: Moderate barrier protection. Use for low to moderate levels of aerosols, spray and/or fluids.

  3. Level Three: Maximum barrier protection. Use for high risk of fluid, spray and/or fluids.

Key Testing Metrics:

 

Masks are tested to five key performance criteria:

  • Bacterial Filtration Efficiency: measures and tests the bacteria filtered out by the mask (larger than three microns).

  • Particulate Filtration Efficiency: measures and tests the particles filtered out by the mask (larger than one micron).

  • Fluid Resistance: evaluates and tests the resistance of the face mask to the penetration of approximately 2 mL of synthetic blood at a high velocity. Based on visual evidence, the mask either passes or fails the test.

  • Breathability: tests the resistance of the face mask to a controlled airflow driven at the mask. Lower breathing resistance results indicates a higher level of comfort for the user.

  • Flammability: tests the time required for an exposed flame to proceed up the mask material at a distance of five inches. Normal flammability is known as Class One.

The more resistance the mask offers to any of these criteria, the higher the grade, and thus the higher the protection. Higher protection masks are more suited to surgery or working with chemicals, however, will not protect again vapours, which will need a respirator.

It is important to ensure you are thorough with your research to find the most appropriate PPE when procuring. 

ASTM-Level-3-Surgical-Masks-Splash-Resistant.png
3PLY Splash Resistant ASTM Level 3
Art.Code: SFLNYWL3

For oral exams of high-risk patients patients and other dental and medical procedures involving high levels of spray, splatter
 

  • Fluid resistant > 160 mmHg equivalent
  • BFE and PFE filtration efficiency > 98% @ 0.1micron 
  • ASTM Level 3 Earloop Face Mask

  • CE, FDA, CN certified

TEST

ASTM F1862 (Fluid Resistance)

MIL-M-36954 C (Breathability)

ASTM F2101: Bacteria Filtration Efficiency (BFE) (Filtration 3μm)

ATSM F2299: Particle Filtration Efficiency (PFE) (Filtration 1μm)

16 CFR Part 1610 (Flammability)

Level I Mask

80 mmHg

<4 mm H20

≥ 95%

≥ 95% @ 0.1 micron

Class One

Level II Mask

120 mmHg

<5 mm H20

≥ 98%

≥ 98% @ 0.1 micron

Class One

Level III Mask

160 mmHg

<5 mm H20

≥ 98%

≥ 98% @ 0.1 micron

Class One

Note: ASTM-Rated face masks do not necessarily provide all the respiratory protection from airborne diseases. To further reduce the risk of breathing in airborne disease particles, a fit-tested respirator is requiredas the N95 NIOSH-Approved Respirators.