A simple and cheap aerosol penetrometer for filter testing using an electronic cigarette
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Background: During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic face masks grew in importance as their use by the general population was recommended by health officials in order to minimize the risk of infection and prevent further spread of the virus. To ensure health protection of medical personnel and other system relevant staff, it is of considerable interest to quickly test if a certain lot of filtering facepiece masks meets the requirements or if the penetration changes under different conditions. As certified penetrometers are rather expensive and were difficult to obtain during the COVID-19 pandemic, we describe two quite simple and cheap methods to quickly test the filter penetration based on an electronic cigarette.
Methods: The first method uses a precision scale, the second method uses a light scattering detector to measure the filter penetration. To make sure these two methods yield reliable results, both were tested with freshly cut filter samples covering the range of approx. 2 % to 60 % filter penetration and compared to the results of a certified penetrometer.
Results: The comparison of the two methods with the certified penetrometer showed a good correlation and therefore allow a quick and rather reliable estimation of the penetration.
Conclusions: Several examples about the use of faulty masks and the resulting health risks show that simple, fast, cheap and broadly available methods for filter characterization might be useful in these days.