As coronavirus continues to spread throughout the world, many people are reaching for a face mask, which has been recommended by the WHO as a protection measure. Which FFP coded mask should you buy? Each conforms to EU norm EN 149, but the confusion begins in their classification.
They’re split into three categories: FFP1, FFP2, and FFP3. The code FFP stands for ‘filtering facepiece particles’. It shows what and how many particles of suspended dust, mist or fibers are filtered. But what do these classifications mean? Join us as we explain the difference.
Filtering FacePiece Particles
Face masks are marked with the code FFP. This stands for ‘filtering facepiece particles’. They can be classified as FFP 1, FFP 2 or FFP 3.
The higher the number, the better the protection. When you do a task that involves toxic substances, it is best to choose the highest protection.
A dust mask with code FFP1 protects against large, solid particles. Only suitable for protection against irritating, not harmful substances. They protect against materials in concentrations up to 4x OEL or 4x APF (assigned protection factor). Minimum filter efficiency of 78%. Because it is the first rung on the ladder (so to speak), they are the most affordable option.
The classification standards demands:
- Protection from ‘atoxic and non-fibrogenic’ kinds of dust.
- Inhaling may cause the development of health conditions and can irritate the respiratory system and cause unpleasant odors.
- Leakage may amount to a maximum of 25%.
- The mask can be used in an environment that is at most 4-times higher than the occupational exposure limit value (OEL).
A face mask with code FFP2 protects against solid and liquid irritating aerosols. These offer more protection than FFP1, at concentrations up to 12x OEL or 10x APF. Minimum filter efficiency of 94%. They are the European equivalent of the N95 respirator masks used in the US and this kind meet the guidance from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
FFP2 filtering facepieces contain at least 94% of particles measuring up to 0.6 μm. The classification demands:
- Protection from the firm and fluid deleterious forms of dust, smoke, and aerosols.
- Particles may be fibrogenic, which can irritate the respiratory system in the short term and result in the reduction of elasticity in the pulmonary tissue in the longer term.
- Total leakage may only amount to a maximum of 11%.
- The mask can be used in environments with OEL levels 10-times higher than the normal limit.
A mask with code FFP3 protects against solid and liquid toxic aerosols. They offer the highest level of protection, which protects against materials in concentrations up to 50x OEL or 20x APF. Minimum filter efficiency of 98%. Current NHS guidelines stipulate FFP3 face masks for virus and bacterial infection control when the contagion is spread through coughing and sneezing (such as with the coronavirus). They are also often used by healthcare professionals when handling hazardous pharmaceutical chemicals.
FFP3 respirator masks offer exceptional levels of protection from air pollution with a total leakage maximum of 5% and 99% of all particles measuring up to 0.6 μm filtered. The classification demands:
- Protection from poisonous and deleterious types of dust, smoke, and aerosols.
- Filtration for oncogenic and radioactive substances or pathogens like bacteria, viruses and fungal spores.
- Total leakage may amount to a maximum of 5%.
- Suitable for environments with OEL transgression to the thirtyfold value.
Extra Indications On Masks
For some face masks, the FFP score is followed by another extra indication. This can be handy to help you choose.
Dust masks with the ‘D’ indication have passed the dolomite test. They are more resistant to clogging over time. There is also less breathing resistance, which makes work more pleasant.
Masks with the ‘V’ indication have a valve for exhalation. This reduces breathing resistance and also ensures that the CO2 and moisture level in the dust mask stays as low as possible.
- Unvalved: Unvalved masks mean that the filtration system is built into the fabric, and they can, therefore, be lightweight and fairly discreet. This can make the mask comfortable to wear as they are non-bulky and don’t feel heavy on the face.
- Valved: The other alternative to an unvalved mask is a valved one. Although this can make the mask slightly bulkier and heavier (as face masks go), it allows air to be let out of the mask. Valved masks are typically less sweaty and stuffy, which can make them more breathable and comfortable to wear.
These masks that have passed the dolomite test and have a valve.
The R indication on the dust mask shows that it is reusable. Standard dust masks can only be used for one session.
Standard dust masks can only be used for one session. To clarify this, the indication NR may be stated on the packaging but if nothing is stated, the dust mask should in any case only be used once.
Why Should You Wear A Mask
Work environments often conceal hazards that are not immediately recognized. These hazards can cause permanent damage to your health, and in the worst case even be life-threatening.
That makes it important to get the maximum possible protection for your respiratory passages against the harmful effects of dust particles, gases, smoke and fumes that are present in the ambient air.
Face masks protect you against solid dust particles, fibers, microorganisms, mists and aerosols (suspended droplets and dust).
For the highest level of protection to be achieved, be sure to remember to also have gloves, a face shield, and safety goggles, disinfectants, sanitizers among other PPE. You can find and buy all these personal protective equipment at Imagine Care Shop or by contacting +254737898884, +254759292158, +254789231328, +254742448334, or dropping an email to .