As the World braces for another rapidly advancing mutating version of Covid 19 Face masks are being used to reduce the chance of spreading or capturing COVID-19 once again. To limit the spread of the virus as much as possible, countries across the world are advising its citizens to considering making mask use mandatory both outdoors and indoors. As the world starts enforcing limited lockdowns its important to understand the differences between various stypes of Face Masks.
Broadly speaking there are 3 types of Face masks. 1) Cloth Masks 2) Medical &Surgical Masks and 3 )Industrial masks or / Filtering Respirators.
Medical Masks are often known as surgical masks and are commonly used for general purpose and offers a fair amount of protection.They are also standardized and certified.However they are good for avoiding infecting others but less effective for protecting yourself.
Industrial Masks/Filtering Respirators/FFP : They are the most potent face masks that are certified, standardized ,available for single use and offer the highest levels of protection you can every get.
The initials FFP in the name FFP2 stand for ‘Filtering Face Piece,’ and these masks filter out harmful microparticles very effectively, which is why they are used in conditions where there is a high risk of infection.
The 3 Types of Filtering Face Masks are:
- European-certified face masks
- American-certified face masks
- Indian Certified face masks
European – EN 149: 2001 + A1: 2009
FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3 masks are governed by a piece of European legislation, the famous EN 149:2001, updated in 2009. This law defines the standards used to certify the effectiveness of ‘respiratory protective devices’ and clearly establishes the requirements, tests and branding for the masks.
American – NIOSH – 42CFR84
N95 Masks are covered by American standard NIOSH – 42CFR84 which are drawn up by NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health), the American body responsible for certifying the actual effectiveness of filtering facial devices.
Indian – IS 9473:2002
BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) is the apex certification body in India under which standard IS 9473:2002 is used for classifying masks as FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3. BIS is the only body out of the three which mandates an in-house dedicated laboratory for certification.
How long does a FFP2 mask last?
FFP2 masks can be marked with the letter (R) for ‘reusable’ or (NR) for ‘non-reusable’. Most FFP2 masks fall into the latter category – they are protective devices that progressively become less effective with the passing of time. For this reason an FFP2 mask typically lasts around eight hours in at-risk environments, or a single work shift. Even if it is worn while keeping a safe distance in low-risk areas, the mask should nevertheless be thrown away after eight hours, since breathing and exposure to moisture gradually affect its filtration capacity and physical integrity. Once they become significantly damp, FFP2 masks should be discarded.
Cloth Masks vs Surgical Masks vs FFP2 Masks Compared: Which is the best ?
So what makes these respiratory masks so good at filtration compared to surgical or cloth masks?
FFP2 masks are defined as being composed of three layers of synthetic non-woven materials, available in different thicknesses, with the inclusion of filtration layers between.It’s this combination of factors that lead to those strong results.
N95 and FFP2 are similar kinds of respiratory masks. These masks supposedly protect both the wearer and people around them. The World Health Organisation cites studies which show the filtration systems of FFP2 and N95 masks are 94 and 95 per cent effective respectively.
But 94 to 95 per cent of what?
This figure is achieved by testing masks using NaCl (sodium chloride) particles and paraffin oil – this is only for FFP2 testing, with the N95 certification process only testing using NaCl. While standard medical masks only filter three micrometre droplets, FFP2 respirator masks filter down to 0.075 micrometre solid particles. The masks are then tested by seeing what percentage of these small particles make it through and, in the case of getting FFP2 certification, only six per cent or less
If you feel the need for extra protection then Mallcom FFP2 face masks are now available at https://amzn.to/3zRWmyV.
It is also worth noting that these more protective coverings have reduced in price since they first rose in popularity during the lockdowns of 2020.