TÜV reveals “scrap masks” from China in the breathing chambers
As of: 4:53 p.m. | Reading time: 3 minutes
Due to the huge demand, many unsuitable protective masks arrived in Germany from China. We now pay more attention to quality. The TÜV alone has checked deliveries of over 250 million copies – and is now demanding a seal of approval.
“Every fifth respirator mask from China is unusable!” – Headlines about mass imports of unsuitable protective masks from China keep unsettling consumers. However, the product, which has become an everyday commodity practically overnight, needs a basic trust in its reliability if people are to continue to pull the cloth over their mouth and nose voluntarily and several times a day.
Extensive tests by the technical monitoring associations (TÜV) are now intended to establish this basic trust. “We are now doing preliminary tests directly at Shanghai Airport in China according to 25 criteria for mask deliveries that are exported from there to Germany,” says Dirk Stenkamp, CEO of TÜV Nord AG.
The central procurement of the goods by the Federal Ministry of Health and the state ministries has proven successful, Stenkamp notes, who will take over the presidency of the Presidium in the Association of TÜV (VdTÜV) in the coming week. From his point of view, headlines of “scrap masks” from China will soon be a thing of the past: “To date, TÜV Nord alone has delivered more than 250 million masks in the testing process.”
And that is time-consuming: After the masks arrive in Germany, the goods are checked for transport damage in a logistics center in the Thuringian town of Apfelstädt commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Health. Finally, samples are tested for permeability in a special TÜV laboratory – in so-called breathing chambers. For this purpose, the masks are stretched over facial dummies and sprayed with aerosols.
“In our Essen laboratory, we work three days a day, seven days a week,” says Stenkamp. In the “bumpy early days”, when the need was great and the demand was high, a lot of unsuitable material from dubious sources came onto the market. “More and more extensive testing is now underway,” says the physicist. “It has emerged which manufacturers are trustworthy.” Drugstore chains and pharmacies are now reliable sources of supply for consumers.
So far there is only one self-declaration by the manufacturers
Nevertheless: There is no general obligation to check. And not all of the more than 500 companies that started manufacturing respiratory masks in Germany had their production checked. Some of them did not have a certified quality management system in accordance with the ISO 9001 industrial standard.
So far, there is only a so-called manufacturer’s self-declaration for simple surgical masks, which is documented with the letters “CE” on the product. “We also believe that an easily recognizable test seal for simple respirators is useful to give the consumer additional security with this product, which is crucial for health protection,” says Stenkamp.
The chief inspector considers doubts about the effectiveness of the masks to be inappropriate: “We can very well assess whether masks are able to keep out saline aerosols and thus significantly reduce the risk of infection via this route of infection.”
The corona crisis is likely to lead to a relocation of the production of individual goods and medical products domestically in the global economy. Because of product safety, this “glocalization” is not mandatory, says Stenkamp: “As a testing company, we have the aspiration to work according to exactly the same quality standards in all countries.” This is the only way that the TÜV is able to “the global players of Supporting the economy with our services, regardless of whether they produce in Mexico, Mumbai or Munich. “
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