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Is it time to “level up” with your face mask? A break-down of Medical Mask Levels

You’ve been dutifully wearing a mask or face covering as your community leaders have strongly advised, and you’ve been doing your part staying 6 feet apart… for nearly one year!

As hard as we try, we all know that this isn’t always possible. There are groceries to be bought, workplaces to attend, and other activities where we aren’t able to properly socially distanced. Non-medical face coverings or masks are an honest attempt to slow the spread of harmful bacteria travelling in respiratory droplets, however they are not tested or regulated by health officials for their level of protection and effectiveness.

This is where Medical Masks come in. You may have heard of the terms Level 1, 2, and 3 over the past year, especially if you’re in the medical field. However, 3-ply medical masks are becoming very popular in mainstream places such as schools, gyms, libraries, food production plants, farms, businesses, and more.

SO – what’s the fuss about? What makes a medical mask safer and more effective than the one my aunt made me, you ask? The answer to this, simply put, is testing. All medical masks in Canada must go through the ASTM certification process mandated by Health Canada and pass a series of laboratory tests. Depending on their results, they will be deemed Level 1, 2, or 3 (1 offering the lowest level of protection and 3 offering the highest). See here for test results for our Level 3 masks as an example: https://unitedcanadainc.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/ASTM-Premium-Blue-Test-Report.pdf

A medical mask has 3 layers, and all three are tested: an inner and outer layer of spunbound polypropylene, and a middle layer of non-woven melt-blown media.

How is THAT for medical/technical jargon? Further to this, here is the Canadian government’s page about the testing requirements for PPE: https://buyandsell.gc.ca/specifications-for-COVID-19-products#200

Let’s break the 5 main testing procedures down:

  1. Bacterial filtration efficiency– This is a key testing element that examines the mask’s ability to filter particles, bacteria and viruses
  2. Differential pressure– a test that measures how easily air is passed from one side of the mask to the other, indicating how easily the wearer can breathe through the mask
  3. Particle filtration efficiency- evaluates the particle retention or filtration efficiency of the 3 layers at a sub-micron level
  4. Synthetic blood penetration– this determines the mask’s ability to act as a barrier to blood-borne pathogens
  5. Flame spread- this one is quite literal! It exposes the material to a flame and measures the time required for the flame to proceed up the material a distance of 12.7 cm

We hope this sheds some light on the world of medical masks, and you consider “leveling up” with your face masks. Scroll our site to see all 3 levels of our tested and passed-with-flying-colours medical masks we offer and choose the right one for you!

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