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European Union Flattened the Curve Since May 2020

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

The U.S. SARS-Cov-2 infection rate climbed to nearly 15 times that of the European Union (EU) per capita by the end of June. At the same time, the EU’s curve has remained flat since the end of May. The EU’s success in the fight against Covid-19 is due in part to minimum breathability and filtration requirements for public face masks that were set along with testing methods to ensure conformance.

The EU’s attitude toward wearing face masks in public follows a “collective-protection strategy.” Residents predominately adhere to laws enforcing mask-wearing based on mutual-protection cooperation and penalty of fines.

Breathability in public face masks has become a contentious topic in the United States. Videos of concerned citizens scolding lawmakers over facemasks that potentially impair breathing have been circulating. And a budding “anti-mask” movement appears to be afoot. The U.S. public is still trying to figure out what safe and breathable materials to use in home-made or store-bought masks from YouTube videos and unregulated manufacturers.

By contrast, community face masks—a name often used for public face masks designated in the EU as a separate category from personal protection equipment--go through testing before market in Europe. Balancing breathability with filtration criteria is key to the strategy. Breathability is established via tests that measure “breathing resistance” and “air permeability” for adequacy. The criteria for effective filtration is set at a basic 70 to 90 percent of droplet particles.

The Industrial Technical Center for Textiles and Clothing in France helped coordinate companies in choosing and testing materials that meet criteria set by the EU's standards groups. By early June, more than 100 French manufacturers applied to pass conformance requirements for a quality label established for conforming public mask products produced in France.

The EU’s requirements that ensure public face masks meet set breathability and filtration criteria were published via open access in June. To see various entries on face mask fabric combinations that passed both breathability and filtration criteria set by the EU, go to ###

Science News Service (SNS) offers research-based news focused on public face mask quality, criteria, and standards for consumers free during the pandemic. News outlets can download visual and text content at SNS is a non-profit dedicated to science-based journalism.


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