Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Surgical Mask

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Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Surgical Face Masks

A surgical mask covers the user’s nose and mouth and provides a physical barrier to fluids and particulate materials. The masks are classified into different categories based on their filtration level. They are listed in the following table:

Fluid Resistance mm Hg Particle Filtration Efficiency (%) Differential Pressure Test Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (%) Flammability Test
ASTM F 2100
Level 1 80 ≥ 95 < 4 ≥ 95% Class 1
Level 2 120 ≥ 98 < 5 ≥ 98% Class 1
Level 3 160 ≥ 98 < 5 ≥ 98% Class 1

Type of fabric


Spunbonded, meltblown, or wetlaid.

Material Composition

A surgical mask may contain some or all of the following material composition.

Other materials:

  • metals, for example, used in nose features
  • colorants
  • elastic materials, e.g., used in ear loops
  • foam and other anti-fog materials, if any
  • face shield materials, if any.
Surgical mask

Design features

Surgical mask has varying design features such as:

Tie-on or ear loops


Face shield attached

Surgical masks

Performance Characteristics

Surgical masks are classified into different categories based on the end user needs defined by the following performance characteristics.

Fluid Resistance

Fluid resistance is the ability of the mask’s material to resist the penetration of blood and body fluids. The fluid resistance of the mask is tested using the standard listed below.

  • ASTM F 1862: Standard Test Method for Resistance of Surgical Mask to Penetration by Synthetic Blood

According to ASTM F 1862, surgical masks are tested on a pass/fail basis at three velocities corresponding to the range of human blood pressure (80, 120, 160 mm Hg).

Fluid resistance may be claimed if the device passes ASTM F1862 at any levels. Surgical masks that show passing results at higher velocities are more fluid resistant.

Filtration Efficiency

Surgical masks that are not NIOSH certified N95 Respirators is evaluated by filter efficiency performance and bacterial filtration efficiency. 

  • Particulate Filtration Efficiency

 This in vitro test challenges the mask with unneutralized 0.1-micron polystyrene latex spheres and measures penetration. The use of latex spheres provides an appropriately rigorous test for evaluating a submicron efficiency performance (ASTM F 1215-89 Standard Test Method for Determining the Initial Efficiency of Flatsheet Filter Medium in an Airflow Using Latex Spheres.).

  • Bacterial Filtration Efficiency

Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (BFE) is a measure of the ability of the mask’s material to prevent the passage of aerosolized bacteria. BFE is expressed in the percentage of a known quantity that does not pass the mask material at a given aerosol flow rate.

Flammability Testing

Class 1 and Class 2 flammability materials be used in surgical masks intended for use in the operating room.


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