What Does FFP1, FFP2 & FFP3 Stand For?
As coronavirus continues to spread throughout Asia and the rest of the world, many people are reaching for a face mask, which has been recommended by the WHO as a protection measure. But which one should you buy? We’ve got the lowdown for you on what the difference between each mask is.
In the United States, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines the following categories of particulate filters as of 2011:
|Not oil resistant||N95||Filters at least 95% of airborne particles|
|N99||Filters at least 99% of airborne particles|
|N100||Filters at least 99.97% of airborne particles|
|Oil resistant||R95||Filters at least 95% of airborne particles|
|R99||Filters at least 99% of airborne particles|
|R100||Filters at least 99.97% of airborne particles|
|Oil proof||P95||Filters at least 95% of airborne particles|
|P99||Filters at least 99% of airborne particles|
|P100||Filters at least 99.97% of airborne particles|
FFP3 stands for Filtering Face Pieces and is the European norm when describing protection from poisonous and deleterious kinds of dust, smoke, and aerosols.
Oncogenic and radioactive substances or pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, and fungal spores are filtered by this protective class of respirator masks.
|Class||Filter penetration limit (at 95 L/min airflow)||Inward leakage|
|FFP1||Filters at least 80% of airborne particles||<22%|
|FFP2||Filters at least 94% of airborne particles||<8%|
|FFP3||Filters at least 99% of airborne particles||<2%|
Both European standard EN 143 and EN 149 test filter penetration with dry sodium chloride and paraffin oil aerosols after storing the filters at 70 °C and −30 °C for 24 h each. The standards include testing mechanical strength, breathing resistance and clogging. EN 149 tests the inward leakage between the mask and face, where ten human subjects perform 5 exercises each and for 8 individuals the average measured inward leakage must not exceed 22%, 8% and 2% respectively, as listed above.
We’ve also got the lowdown for you on what the difference between masks are in a quick summary:
Respirator masks (which means they are made of a fabric designed to filter the air or impurities) are based on a grading system do indicate how much protection they offer.
First up is FFP1, which protects against materials in concentrations up to 4x OEL or 4x APF (assigned protection factor). Because it is the first rung on the ladder (so to speak), they are the most affordable option and they can be bought from UK Meds for £9.99 for one £29.99 for a pack of five.
Next is FFP2 and these offer more protection than FFP1, at concentrations up to 12x OEL or 10x APF. 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).
The masks that offer the highest level of protection are FFP3, which protect against materials in concentrations up to 50x OEL or 20x APF. This is substantially higher than FFP1 and they can block both liquid and solid aerosols.
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.
Besides the level of protection that each kind of mask offers, there are also some design elements that you may want to consider:
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.
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.
Another design element that you can choose between is whether you’d prefer a folded or a moulded mask. Folded masks are very discreet and easy to carry around with you and the fabric design is quite breathable.
They offer a close fit to the face because of the elastic head straps, however, they do not offer a perfectly flush fit.
If you’re wanting the closest fit possible then a moulded mask is the way to go. These are designed with the shape of your face in mind and fit snuggly to your nose, mouth and chin.
This can make the mask more effective, as it minimises the risk of particles getting into your respiratory system through any gaps that a looser-fitting mask might leave.
Are N95/N100 actually better than FFP2/P3? Not neccessarily, it’s important to note that these standards only specify the minimum % of particles that the respirator filters. For example, if a mask is FFP2 rated, it will filter at least 94% of particles that are 0.3 microns in diameter or larger. But in practice it will filter somewhere between 94% and 99%. The precise figure will often be quoted by the manufacturer in the product description.
Just be aware: the more people wear masks the more we all are protected - infected or not. Act responsibly in your circles and wear a mask to protect your loved ones, friends and neighbours. You may not get harmed by the virus, but the person next to you may!
Good news: You can actually protect yourself from viruses by wearing an FFP3 or N95 respiratory mask: Get your N95 respirator masks for the whole family today.
Please note that we can only pass on general information and cannot make any guarantees or be liable for any consequences of your decision making or behaviour. Use good common sense and ask your health care provider or physician for advice.
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