Understanding ASTM Levels for Choosing Safer Masks

Picking the best face mask can make a big difference when you want to keep yourself and others around you safe and healthy. One important factor is if your mask has met ASTM testing standards — and the level met. Consumers can use ASTM levels to choose the best mask for their specific situations. This post will cover everything you need to know to pick the best mask for your needs. 

When the coronavirus began, published standards were available for surgical masks and N95 masks — face masks in healthcare settings. Consumer grade masks did not have certifications until nearly a year into the coronavirus pandemic. But now, with ASTM standards, consumers can verify the efficacy of bacterial filtration and the breathability of the masks.

What is ASTM?

ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, develops standards that are adopted and used globally across industries. ASTM International standards set out to help everyone have confidence in the things they buy and use, to enhance safety, and improve the quality of consumer and industrial products. This body of skilled personnel specializes in testing materials and giving specifications and standards. The standards are relied upon by government agencies, scientists, and other industry professionals to ensure the quality and consistency of materials across industries.

ASTM is the largest voluntary organization to develop standards in the world. The organization creates standards in the form of documents that give manufacturers information about procedures and regulations in their specific industry.

While standards are mainly voluntary, contracts, government codes, regulations, or laws can make these standard requirements mandatory.

How does ASTM test face masks?

ASTM testing is based on both filtration efficacy and breathability. Level one performance means the mask meets minimum ASTM standards. Level two verifies the masks meet higher standards. The exact percentage of particles the mask can filter out determines its level one or level two designation.

Filtration efficiency is tested by comparing the particle count of a test media, such as a virus, before it enters the mask’s filter, referred to as upstream, and then re-measuring the count after it passes through the filter, referred to as downstream. 

In order to say a mask meets ASTM standards, manufacturers must test their masks in accredited labs. 

ASTM specification for face masks cover the classifications, performance requirements, and test methods for the materials used in the construction of medical face masks that are used in health care services such as surgery and patient care. Medical face mask material performance is based on testing for bacterial filtration efficiency, differential pressure, sub-micron particulate filtration efficiency, resistance to penetration by synthetic blood, and flammability. The specification covers testing and requirements for materials used in the construction of medical face masks that are used in providing healthcare services such as surgery and patient care. Additionally it addresses medical masks with ties (surgical masks) and ear loops.

ASTM levels & their meanings

ASTM tests with droplets of Staphylococcus aureus with a droplet size of 3.0 microns. To be classified as a medical/surgical mask the filtration rate must be a minimum of 95%. Moderate and high protection masks must have rates more than 98%. 

ASTM Levels are as follows:

  • Level 1 face mask: use for low risk of fluid exposure
  • Level 2 face mask: use for moderate risk of fluid exposure
  • Level 3 face mask: use for high risk of fluid exposure

How to choose the best mask based on ASTM levels

People are exposed to biological aerosols or droplets from sneezing, coughing, breathing, and speaking. Face masks have come into wide-spread usage due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). It has been conclusively shown that the use of medical face masks by both healthcare personnel and the general public helps prevent the spread of infection, particularly COVID-19. 

Consider your level of exposure when choosing a mask based on the ASTM levels. If face masks are ASTM rated, the levels should be listed on the package. With >95% efficiency, ELoMed’s bio face mask is an excellent option for anyone with a moderate risk of exposure to pathogens. In addition to the >95 high bio filtration efficiency (BFE) of these level 2 ASTM face mask rating, the bio face mask is hypoallergenic, highly breathable, and biodegradable. 


With the market flooded with blue masks made from polypropylene and commercial dyes, the bio face mask is better than traditional blue medical face masks. Not only does it meet the level 2 ASTM standards, you can skip skin irritation and breathing in chemicals from the blue masks.One ELoMed bio face mask customers have reported no longer getting headaches while being masked all day at work. Another chiropractic group was suffering with headaches when using the blue medical masks. She said the headaches went away when they started using the bio face mask.And conscious consumers can rest easy knowing the masks are biodegradable. This means they are good for you, and good for the planet! 


ELoMed the bio face mask is a good choice for protection, with level 2 ASTM certification and >98% bacterial filtration efficiency. So why not make the switch and go bio while you keep yourself safe.