I have been part of the ISO Standardisation Committee since 2006. The new ISO 16890 standard was introduced in 2017 and I wanted to take this opportunity to explain more about it and why it is so important for end consumers and public health.

Firstly, for those who are unfamiliar with the ISO: the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a non-governmental organisation that develops and promotes industrial and commercial standards around the globe. Setting common standards worldwide not only facilitates international trade but ensures product safety and consumer protection standards.

Test stand for filters

Why was a new standard needed?

In the first few years of the new millennium a new European standard – EN 779:2002 – was introduced. However, the standard worked solely as a rating system between different filters and, in my opinion, had no easily identifiable connection to real-life performance. EN 779:2002 rated filter air filterperformance on particle size, 0.4 μm, and so it was difficult to assess performance and efficiency across the range of particles that are actually in our air. This also led to filters being either over- or under-engineered to conform to the standard, but not necessarily to perform optimally for their given function.

Over the years, we have been examining the particulates that are present in the air and developing even better filtration technology to help us prevent pollution damaging our environment and health. There is particular emphasis on indoor air quality and the importance of cleaner air both inside and out. It became clear that a new standard was needed to help us to design good indoor air quality.

What’s new with ISO 16890?

The ISO 16890 standard tests a filter’s performance using particles from 0.3 μm up to 10 μm. This range much better reflects the various sizes of particulates found in air. What’s more, PM smaller than 10 μm gets past our own natural defences and into our bodies, travelling to the throat, lining the lungs and even, at 1 μm diameter, entering the blood stream.

After testing, filters are classified according to their efficiency:

filters are classified according to their efficiency

The groups show a product’s efficiency in filtering particulate matter with a diameter of less than 10 μm, 2.5 μm and 1 μm (PM10, PM2.5, PM1).

The “e” in the group name stands for efficiency and, to be assigned a particular group, a filter must have at least 50% efficiency in that group. Filters are also awarded a further efficiency rating rounded to the nearest 5%, for example:

  • Ø  ePM10 80% – this filter is 80% efficient at filtering PM10
  • Ø  ePM1 65% – this filter is 65% efficient at filtering PM1
  • What benefits does ISO 16890 bring with it?

By classifying filters into four groups, ISO 16890 brings a lot more certainty and clarity in filtration technology. Our clients can now calculate indoor air quality much more precisely and choose a filter that is right to achieve the quality levels recommended by, for example, the World Health Organization. Furthermore, clients can specify the right filter for a given application, resulting in cost savings and energy efficiencies – for example by doing away with the need for power-hungry, high-pressure fans.

waiting area with air filters

So next time you are choosing a filter, look out for the new ISO 16890 classifications. They will help you to achieve the air quality you need for your particular project quickly and effectively.