As compared to AS/NZS 1716 P2 requirements.

This post was provided by Michael Taylor from Fair Air Masks.

www.fairairmasks.com

This post compares the performance of the Fair Air fire mask (Fair Air) against the requirements of AS/NZS 1716:2013 (the standard) for masks rated as P2. It also provides some detail regarding ISO 9151:1995(E) and ISO 15025:2000 which are international standards for fire resistance for protective clothing. The Fair Air fire mask is the only respirator to have passed,or could pass, these two standards (according to the experts at the CSIRO).

Filtration Efficiency

The standard requires that masks rated as P2 filter out at least 94% of particulates using a test medium of a solution of Sodium Chloride as an aerosol. The Fair Air is well over this requirement displaying approximately 96% removed using this test method (see ICS Labs report on the Fair Air Masks website).

The CSIRO has for many years used a dry chemical (KCl) in their filtration efficiency tests which more closely resembles smoke particulates. Their tests indicated the following quantities of particulates removed by the Fair Air filter:

  • 1 micron and above – 100%
  • 0.7 to < 1micron – 99.9994%
  • 0.5 to < 0.7 micron – 99.9928%, and
  • 0.3 to < 0.5 micron – 99.9433%.

Breathing Resistance

(a) Inhalation:

The standard requires P2 masks to have a maximum breathing resistance of 370 Pa at a flow rate of 95 litres per minute.

Tests show that at this flow rate the Fair Air has an average of less than 65Pa which is far less than permitted under the standard. As a result users find it extremely easy to breathe and even clearly talk through making it unnecessary to remove it, even for radios.

(b) Exhalation:

The standard has a requirement that breathing resistance for half face masks with exhalation valves should not exceed 120 Pa at a flow rate of 85 litres per minute.

The Fair Air does not have an exhalation valve and as such has not been tested at this lower flow rate than inhalation (95 lpm). However, because there is no valve the resistance would be the same as for exhalation as inhalation and the 65Pa of the Fair Air is approximately half the 120Pa permitted for valved masks.

Fire Resistance

The Fair Air is the only respirator known to have passed the two international standards for fire resistance for protective clothing for heat and flame, ISO15025:2000 and ISO9151:1995(E). It didn’t just pass, but far exceeded the requirements. For ISO9151 the respirator is exposed to a flame of over 600C and the time taken for the temperature on the face side to rise 24C is measured. This standard requires it take at least 17 seconds. The Fair Air took an average of over 78 seconds, a full minute longer than the requirement.

AS/NZS 1716 has a very basic ‘fire resistance’ test which sees masks passed through a flame for less than 1.5 seconds and they are deemed to have passed “if they do not continue to burn, or are not grossly deformed, on removal from the flame”.

ISO15025:2000 has a stationary propane gas flame directly applied for ten seconds and a pass is achieved only if there is no afterglow time, and flame did not spread beyond the impacted area, nor any hole develop, none of which happened with the Fair Air.

A video on the website shows the vast difference in the flammability of the 3M P2 mask, supplied by some fire agencies, and the Fair Air. Not only did the P2 disposable catch fire in just moments, it continued to burn vigorously after removal of the flame.

Facial Fit

The standard permits total inward leakage (TIL) of 8% for P2 half face masks. Also many of these masks carry manufacturers’ warnings that they not be used with any facial hair as that prevents sealing.

The Fair Air mask has significant differences in its design which makes TIL non existent, even for those with facial hair. One factor is the large degree of contact with the face, about 2cm all around the mouth and nose. This ensures that air flows through the 1 cm thick filters as that is the path of least resistance. Combined with electrostatic properties of some of the filter components, the Fair Air provides effective protection even to those with facial hair. Common feedback has been that even in smoke so thick that the feet can’t be seen, there was no smoke detected.

Donning the Masks

Most P2 disposables require the removal of hats or helmets, eye wear and gloves to put the mask on as the attaching bands have to be passed over the head.

The Fair Air has a Velcro and broad elastic attachment and can be put on without removing helmets, goggles or gloves. The instructions suggest putting goggles on first to help position the Fair Air next to the goggles. The flexibility of the attachment ensures that all sized heads can wear it comfortably.

Reusability/Service life

P2 disposables are designed for single use only and due to the light materials used often clog up or have straps fail in less than an hour.

The Fair Air was designed to be a standard item of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The filters are washable and reusable at least ten times (actually last far longer). Even in the thickest of smokes and dust have proved to last for a full shift, just tapping the excess off the holder during water breaks. Due to ongoing reusability the cost per use for the Fair Air is significantly less than valved disposables.

Storage requirements

Because most P2 disposables are made of polypropylene, which starts to break down at fairly low temperatures, manufacturers advise that they are stored at less than 25C. Temperatures in parked vehicles and fire sheds often far exceed this which would significantly reduce mask performance when actually needed.

As the Fair Air is mainly composed of natural fibres of cotton and alpaca there is no requirement for special storage.

Summary

The Fair Air fire mask far exceeds all the requirements of AS/NZS 1716:2013 and provides previously unseen levels of protection from airborne particulates while also being highly fire resistant and comfortable to wear for long periods of time at a minimal cost per use.

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