CSIRO launches face mask testing site in Melbourne

By Shannon Jenkins

Thursday August 6, 2020

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

The CSIRO has opened a surgical face mask testing facility in Melbourne to help frontline health workers quickly receive the PPE needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Launched on Thursday, the new facility can provide a rapid turnaround on surgical face mask testing.

Manufacturers can use the CSIRO facility to test their masks, rather than sending the materials overseas, speeding up the process of getting masks to frontline healthcare workers.

Queensland manufacturer Evolve Group has begun making masks to support Australia’s COVID-19 effort. The company will save time and money with the launch of the Melbourne facility, according to managing director Ty Hermans.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

The facility is the first in Australia to be accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA). To achieve the accreditation, the site had to prove it could provide tests that show single-use surgical masks adequately filter biological particles, resist against blood penetration, and allow the wearer to breathe comfortably.

Manufacturers will meet Australian and international standards and can be registered on the Australian Register for Therapeutic Goods if they pass the three tests.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall welcomed the launch.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

During the pandemic, the agency has been testing and scaling up potential vaccines, using data to model and predict virus spread, and testing wastewater for traces of the virus.

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