Comparative performance testing of respirator versus surgical mask using a water droplet spray model

Paul T.J. Scheepers*, Heiman F.L. Wertheim, Maurice van Dael, Rob Anzion, Henk Jan Holterman, Steven Teerenstra, Martijn de Groot, Andreas Voss, Joost Hopman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background. During the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, there was shortage of the standard respiratory protective equipment (RPE). The aim of this study was to develop a procedure to test the performance of alternative RPEs used in the care of COVID-19 patients. Methods. A laboratory-based test was developed to compare RPEs by total inward leakage (TIL). We used a crossflow nebulizer to produce a jet spray of 1–100 µm water droplets with a fluorescent marker. The RPEs were placed on a dummy head and sprayed at distances of 30 and 60 cm. The outcome was determined as the recovery of the fluorescent marker on a membrane filter placed on the mouth of the dummy head. Results. At 30 cm, a type IIR surgical mask gave a 17.7% lower TIL compared with an FFP2 respirator. At 60 cm, this difference was similar, with a 21.7% lower TIL for the surgical mask compared to the respirator. When adding a face shield, the TIL at 30 cm was further reduced by 9.5% for the respirator and 16.6% in the case of the surgical mask. Conclusions. A safe, fast and very sensitive test method was developed to assess the effectiveness of RPE by comparison under controlled conditions

Original languageEnglish
Article number1599
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2021


  • Aerosols
  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • Particle size distribution
  • Respiratory protective equipment
  • Virus transmission


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