VERS-LE-PETIT, France (AP) – In normal times, Franceâ€™s state Defense Procurement Agency would be busy shopping weapons systems for Franceâ€™s military. During the coronavirus pandemic, its brief has been expanded to include a smaller-scale but equally important task: Testing face masks.
The agency known by its French acronym DGA currently tests around 80 masks a day, which are sent in by French companies hoping to receive its official stamp of approval – even though thatâ€™s not a legal prerequisite for the masks to be sold.
â€œWhat the DGA tests show is a guarantee on a quality of filtration of the masks against the fine particles example of small droplets which are not visible to the naked eye,â€ said Brigadier General Raymond Levet.
â€œ(We can) prove that the fabric has the right properties for filtering particles,â€ he added during an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press that was granted rare access to the agency in the small town of Vers-le-Petit in the Essonne region, just south of Paris.
The first stage of the testing is on a mannequin, where experts check whether it fits correctly around the face and nose. At a second stage, a machine blasts air at the mask to see how good its level of filtration is.
The material, that is usually cotton, is then passed into a machine that shoots pulverized corn to see how fine particles enter the mask. A 70%-90% particle filtration is what the DGA has deemed the minimum acceptable standard.
The DGA says that around a fifth of masks submitted for testing make the grade for protection against the transmission and dissemination of COVID-19.
So far, 3,600 masks have been tested.
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