What constitutes a quality non-medical facemask?

Compiled by Victoria Namutebi Wamala

Photo: newvision.co.ug

The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) is giving out free non-medical mask standards to aid certification of facemask manufacturers and mass production of non-medical facemasks that meet the national quality standards.

This is in line with the UNBS mandate of consumer protection, aimed at protecting Ugandans from buying substandard non-medical facemasks which could be harmful to their health, in the wake of COVID-19.

During his recent speech, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, said that wearing facemasks is to become mandatory for all Ugandans aged six (6) years and above, if he is to ease the COVID-19 lockdown.

But what constitutes a quality non-medical facemask?

According to the Uganda Standard, US 2252: 2020 Non-medical masks – Specification, a non-medical facemask is a covering that protects the full face or parts of the face against contaminated atmosphere or reduces the emission of droplets from the wearer to the atmosphere.

The standard states that non-medical face masks may be made from variety of common cloth and other fabric materials which are compatible and suitable for use like Chiffon and cotton, in specific quantities laid out in the US 2252: 2020 Non-medical masks – Specification.

The standard requires that these facemasks may be of a single layer or a multi-layer composite made of single or blended fabric, with or without film and shall have head harness for holding it on the user’s head

  • The design: They shall be designed so that air enters the facemask and passes directly to the nose and mouth area of the face mask while the exhaled air shall flow directly to the ambient atmosphere or via the exhalation valve(s) or by other appropriate means if applicable.
  • The Fitting: The Facemasks shall have a mechanism to fix to the wearer such as head harness to tie it securely to the head or ears to minimize any gaps between the face and the mask. The mechanism shall be adjustable, if needed, to ensure nose and mouth are fully covered. It shall fit snugly to the cheeks and there shall not be any gaps.
  • Instruction for use of reusable mask: If the facemask is designed to be reusable, the manufacturer shall indicate so and declare a method for cleaning, disinfecting and drying products.
  • The type of material: The materials used in both the face masks including filters, if any, and the straps (elastic bands) shall be compatible with the normal household laundry and disposal methods.
  • Durability: The mask shall tolerate at least five (5) full machine washing cycles without loss of barrier properties or degradation of the elastic bands. The full wash cycle (wetting, washing, rinsing) shall be at least 30 min (laundry or other) with a wash temperature of 60 °C.
  • Type of Material: face masks may be made from variety of common cloth and other fabric materials which are compatible and suitable for use like Chiffon and cotton, in specific quantities.
  • No irritation: Materials that may come into contact with the wearer’s skin shall not be known to have potential to cause irritation or any health hazard or deleterious effect to the user.
  • Non Flammability: The material used in the manufacture of the mask shall not present a danger of fire for the wearer and shall not be of highly flammable fabric. This is mainly because the mask is meant to protect soft and sensitive parts of the body
  • No deformation: After storing the masks at specified temperature and then returning to room temperature, the face mask shall not show appreciable deformation.
  • Breathability: the mask should ease breathing and shall be designed in a way that does not cause suffocation to the user.
  •  Packaging: the masks shall be packaged in suitable packaging materials which shall protect the product from any contamination and mechanical damage during transportation, handling and storage. Masks may be packaged in unit packages and into bulk packs.
  •  Labelling, each package shall be legibly and indelibly marked with;

The name and physical address of the manufacturer, packer or distributor

The name of product as “non-medical face mask”, “barrier mask” or “fabric mask” or “cloth mask”.

The lot identification number

The instructions for use

For reusable mask, the word, “Reusable” followed by instruction for cleaning (number of washes, washing and drying method)

Precautions like “Not for medical use”; and

Type of material/fabric used must be indicated.

More requirements regarding the recommended quantities of the fabrics to be used, sampling and test methods are laid out in the free non-medical face mask Uganda Standard, accessible by email; send request to Maurice.musuga@unbs.go.ug or george.opiyo@unbs.go.ug.

UNBS re affirms its commitment to ensure that the lives of Ugandans are protected through developing and promoting standards for  quality products and services in the market amidst the challenges imposed by the COVID 19 pandemic.

For more inquiries, Please contact us on Toll-free Number: 0800133133 or visit our website on www.unbs.go.ug.

The writer is a Public Relations Officer at Uganda National Bureau of Standards.