FFP1, FFP2, FFP3 - what are the differences between the masks?
The most important points in brief
- FFP stands for Filtering Face Piece, i.e. mouth and nose protection that protects against particulate matter.
- This includes, for example, smoke and dust, but also aerosols.
- The numbers 1, 2 and 3 denote the protection levels that the respective mask has. The higher the number, the better the protection.
- Letters printed on the masks also reveal further details.
Before the new type of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 spread pandemic all over the world, wearing protective masks was only mandatory in certain professions. In autumn 2020, in Switzerland and in most European countries, a mask is required in certain places in order to prevent the pathogen from spreading uncontrollably and easily. Self-sewn mouth and nose covers can be seen just as often as simple masks of types I, II and IIR.
The FFP mask can now be seen more and more often in public, no longer just in care or in the medical field. Behind the term is the name for a mouth and nose protection that prevents aerosols and dust from getting into the airways. The higher the number after the letters FFP, the better the protection.
All FFP masks are effective - for themselves and for others
FFP1: Not all masks protect the wearer, but FFP masks do. FFP1 masks keep out non-toxic particles based on oil and water, while they filter at least 80 percent of all pollutants in the air. Radioactive or even carcinogenic substances are not included here, not even against enzymes, biological agents that float through the air: bacteria, molds or viruses. This type of mouth and nose covering is worn, for example, in the food processing industry. However, there is a residual risk, which is called «total leakage» in the case of protective masks; what is meant is the leak. With FFP1 this is a maximum of 22 percent.
FFP2: This mask is worn when processing plastic, metal, fiberglass and the like; it filters at least 94 percent of the harmful particles floating around in the air. Like the FFP1 mask, it is effective against harmful oil and water-based substances, but not against all other substances mentioned in the previous section. Anyone caring for or treating patients with COVID-19 should wear an FFP2 cover. The total leakage is a maximum of eight percent.
FFP3: FFP3 masks not only protect against harmful and carcinogenic particles, but also against airborne substances of a biological nature, against enzymes and radioactive particles. Wherever, for example, hardwood, heavy metal, radioactive material, but also spores, bacteria and viruses are used, these coverings are worn. They filter out at least 99 percent of all harmful substances from the air, whereby the leakage is at most two percent. It is logical that FFP3 masks are also allowed for the care and treatment of corona infected people, but the protection is even greater than with FFP2.
Abbreviations should also be printed on all FFP masks, which give details about the reusability. Masks with the imprint "NR" (not reusable) are not reusable, whereas those with an "R" can - unless they have been exposed to so-called airborne or radioactive substances. If the mask is printed with a «D», then it has successfully passed the test for dolomite dust, which is why it is outstanding in terms of dust filtering.
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