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CSIRO launches Australia’s first accredited face mask testing facility

face mask testing
A scientist performs a Bacteria Filtration Efficiency (BFE) test by measuring their ability to filter a microbiological aerosol. ©Nick Pitsas

CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, has launched the nation’s first accredited surgical face mask testing facility in Melbourne, to help frontline health workers in the fight against COVID-19, while supporting Australian business.

The new facility, accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA), has the capacity to provide a rapid turnaround on surgical face mask testing, helping manufacturers fast-track the supply of masks for frontline healthcare workers.

It is also a boost for Australian companies who will not need to send masks and materials overseas for testing, saving time and money.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall welcomed the announcement.

“It’s inspiring to see Australian science enabling Australian businesses to supply life-saving surgical face masks to protect our frontline health care workers – yet another way science is tackling the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr Marshall said.

“This new facility will give Aussie businesses another solution from science to stop the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.

“Science is guiding us through COVID-19, and science will help us grow on the other side. There’s not much Aussie innovation can’t solve, whether it’s finding the right vaccine or creating Australia’s first NATA-accredited face mask testing facility.”

Manufacturers can use test results obtained at the CSIRO facility to demonstrate that the performance of their medical masks is suitable for supplying Australian hospitals, as well as contributing to the global pandemic response.

Queensland manufacturer, Evolve Group, has recently pivoted to mask manufacturing to help meet Australia’s COVID-19 PPE demands. Evolve’s Managing Director, Ty Hermans, said the new testing facility will support the company getting its masks to where they’re needed faster.

“Using CSIRO’s Australian testing facility means we don’t have to ship our masks overseas, which saves us time and money,” Mr Hermans said.

“It has been our mission to reshore manufacturing ever since we started in 2006.

“Testing our face masks at CSIRO’s facility aligns with our goal to bolster Australia’s sovereign manufacturing capability and not have to rely on overseas facilities.

“Evolve Group is confident in the product we have designed and we’re now looking forward to CSIRO testing our masks to ensure they meet stringent Australian standards and can provide critical protection to frontline workers.”

To gain NATA’s accreditation, the CSIRO facility underwent rigorous on-site assessments to ensure it could provide tests that show single-use surgical masks adequately filter biological particles, resist against blood penetration and enable the wearer to breathe comfortably. Manufacturers that pass all three tests will meet both Australian and international standards and can be registered on the Australian Register for Therapeutic Goods.

The face mask testing facility builds on CSIRO’s response to COVID-19, which has included testing and scaling up potential vaccines, using data to model and predict virus spread, and testing wastewater for traces of the virus.

Source: CSIRO

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